In this brief one-day-trip we explore the northeastern province of Cao Bang, with Ban Gioc-Detian Waterfalls as final destination on the border with China.


We just left charming Hanoi and are heading north now. After an unusual night on the sleeper bus from Hanoi, we step off at Cao Bang bus station at dawn, 5.30 am. Sleeper buses from Hanoi leave every night after 9.30 pm from My Dinh bus station, and reach Cao Bang about 6-7 hours later. Still half asleep, we walk through locals who press us asking where we want to go, and we sneak away quickly.


Cao Bang is a small town with about 50,000 inhabitants, facing the Bang Giang river. We cross the Vietnamese and socialists red-flag-decorated bridge and we head to the main road. Hotels and guesthouses are numerous for an isolated place like this, so after a few attempts we settle in a room on the ninth floor with riverview for 10 dollars!

They let us check-in super early at 7 am so we can get a few hours resting, the sleeper bus isn’t really the best way to get a good night sleep.

When we wake up, we rent a motorcycle (for 200,000 VND, almost double the price compared to Da Nang) and leave eastbound towards Ban Gioc Waterfalls. The road is in good conditions, all turns at first, with long straight roads after. Plus some rewarding views!

road from cao bang to ban gioc waterfalls
A road with a view!


At noon we get to Ban Gioc Waterfalls, that reveal to us suddenly after a bend, with the Chinese border just a bunch of km away.

Ban Gioc Waterfalls are in fact so wide they have a side diving into Vietnam, and the other into China. The fall is “only” 30 meters high, what is impressive is the overall width that reaches 300 meters!

Ban Gioc-Detian Waterfalls how to go


On the Vietnamese side there’s relaxation and laziness, some stands sell souvenirs, but the owners lie on hammocks. The Chinese shore is super busy, rafts go up and down to bring tourists close to the fall. This describes the different organisation and mentality between the two countries in tourist matters, Chinese do it better in this case. Indeed, as on the Chinese side a wooden stairway leads to the top of the falls to appreciate them from above too, on our side the muddy uphill path is blocked by an iron safety fence. Still we look at the bright side and we enjoy the Ban Gioc waterfalls being almost us alone here!


Later on, after stepping into China, according to our GPS (the border check is further on, some women cross clandestinely the river…), we make our way to the Nguom Ngao caves. The road leading to the entrance is not well indicated, all dirt, definitely off road. We won’t be surprised to be almost the only visitors (we’ll only meet 2 local people), good for us because we will enjoy the exclusive show on our own! Actually dredges were doing some works to improve the 3-4 km road that brings to the caves, so surely it will be more crowded in the future.

We get into the caves at about 2 pm, and we’ll get out almost 2 hours later! A breathtaking scenery that leaves us speechless, very hard to describe. Stalagmites and stalactites of huge dimensions, of all shapes, continuously evolving. Water is everywhere, the drops that form the stalagmites come down as pouring rain, we hear the underground rivers flowing all around. Speleologists have discovered that the grottoes are linked with the waterfalls 4 km away, but these recently discovered caves aren’t open to public yet…

Nguom Ngao caves ban gioc waterfalls how to go
Stalactites rain

We have been in several caves in Vietnam, from Da Nang’s Marble Mountains to Ha Long Bay’s Thien Canh Son Cave, (unfortunately we missed Phòng Nha in central Vietnam) but these ones have been undoubtedly the most impressive. Surely the fact we were alone with no people around had deep impact. As usual, photos can describe better than words, so check them out and try to imagine the view from live, just 100 times better than in photo!

how to go Nguom Ngao Caves ban gioc waterfall
Nguom Ngao Caves, Ban Gioc, Cao Bang province
We have to leave around 4 pm, in order to get back to Cao Bang in time to avoid riding in the darkness, an experience that would be better not to try, but will happen to us later on in Ha Giang province…
We have a nice bbq dinner close to our hotel and get to bed early, tomorrow another adventure on-the-road to Ha Giang awaits us!
  • Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.