Ban Gioc waterfall & Nguom Ngao Cave
Ban Gioc waterfall is one of Vietnam’s Best- known waterfalls, and its image adorns the lobby of many a cheap guesthouse. The falls, fed by the Quay Son River that marks the border with China, are an impressive sight and in a highly scenic location.
Boat owners here will punt you on bam – boo rafts (100,000d) close enough to the waterfall so you can fell the spray on your hair (bring shampoo!) and skin. Rafts on the Vietnamese side have green canopies, and on the Chinese side canopies are blue. You’re allowed to swim in the large natural pool on the Vietnamese side, but not in the river or close to the main waterfall.
It’s a picturesque 10- minute stroll through rice paddies to reach the base of the falls from the parking area. If you’re here at harvest time in September or October, the farmers may encourage you to try out their pedal- powered threshing machines.
A police permit (200,000d for up to 10 people) is required to visit this region but the permit can be purchased at the police station here beside the waterfall. You’ll need to show your passport.
There snack and drink stalls by the cave and waterfall, but the nearest accom-modation is in Cao Bang.
Ban Gioc Waterfall
(Admission 15,000d; 7.30am-5pm) Ban Gioc is the largest waterfall in the country, though not the highest. Its vertical drop is only around 30m, but it has an impressive 300m span; one side of the falls is in China, the other is in Vietnam. Water volume varies considerably between the dry and rainy sea- sons, and the sight is most impressive from May to September.
Nguom Ngao Cave
(Admission incl guide 30,000d; 7.30am-4.30pm) About 4km from Ban Gioc waterfall, Nguom Ngao Cave is one of the most spectacular cave systems in Vietnam. Created by an underground river, it extends for several kilometres underground; villagers sheltered here during the 1979 war with china. Visi-tors are permitted in one section, where a 1km- long concrete path and excellent light-ing have been installed.
A guide (no English) accompanies you on an hour-long cave tour, past huge stalagmite and stalactite outcrops and through a vast 100m chamber.
The 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the cave is also very beautiful, threading through the limestone hills that character-ise Cao Bang province, past fields of soya beans.
A second, even bigger branch of the cave system is said to extend almost all the way back to Ban Gioc waterfall, through there’s currently no visitor access to this section.
Getting There & Away
The journey to the falls and cave is absolutely stunning; the road follows a beautiful river valley and weaves through soaring karst peaks for much of the trip. It’s an 87km journey along a decent paved road, and takes about 2, 5 hours.
Buses (70,000d, two hour, 12 daily) connect Cao Bang with Trung Khanh, 27km short of the falls. Negotiate for a Xe Om in Trung Khanh to take you onward, which should come to around 200,000d, including a two-hour wait. Another option is the direct bus (75,000d, 2, 5 hours) departing Cao Bang at 7.30am and 9am.