Ban Gioc is an impressive multi tier waterfall in the east of Cao Bang province. It is located in a beautiful surrounding with an interesting fact – half of the falls belong to Vietnam, the other half to China. The pond between is actually the border. It is one of the main attractions of the province for a reason and should not be missed.
How to get there
From Cao Bang it is around 90km to Ban Gioc. I saw a few buses going that way, but you might need to change buses in Quang Nguyen first. Check at the bus station if direct buses are going. Some might stop at the village nearby, which is 15 minutes away from the falls.
An alternative way is hiring a private car, or even better, try to hire a motorbike. The road from Cao Bang all the way to Ban Gioc is in good condition. Just follow QL3 until you reach Quang Ngai. Then just follow TL206. Following that route you will see some beautiful scenery, so having the chance to stop once in a while would make the trip more enjoyable.
When arriving at the falls you will be welcomed by a great view from the road, overlooking the whole valley, the falls and ponds. It is a marvelous view. To get to the fall follow the road until you see a resort on your right, and a building on your left. Next to the building is the entrance booth to get the ticket for PRICE. A steep road will bring you down to the valley (if on a bike, be careful). There is a little food place offering a space for your bike for 10.000 Dong. They even put a cardboard on your seat and bags to protect them from the sun…and it is nice not to sit down on a boiling hot seat. Here you also find a very clean toilet, I was very impressed considering where it is and seeing more frequent use toilets.
A little path leads to ‘sales area’ where vendors selling the usual touristy items from their stalls. There are also some food stalls on your right. And at the end of the one long row full of stalls is a little place selling ice-cold sugar cane juice. The place is run by a man with his little daughter, who seems to be very happy to speak a little English.
After the commercial section the area opens up, offering a nice view of the falls. Here you can get a boat to get as close as possible to the main fall. However, during lunch time it might be difficult to get a boar as the staff is taking a lunch break. You might be able to interrupt them at their table between the various stalls.
Another option is to follow the path to the open field between the stalls and the falls. From down there you do not even realise that there are some rice fields next to the grass, but the water buffalos roaming freely adds to the feel how rural it is. A path brings you as close to the falls as possible, with a few bridges leading over some little streams. Next to a marker highlighting that you are still in Vietnam it is the closest you can get to the main falls, where massively amount of water is crushing down into the blue pond with boats.
On your left you can get to the smaller falls, with a smaller pond welcoming the water from the hills. It is actually a nice spot to cool down your feet in the water.
Throughout the open field there are trees providing some welcomed shades, and I can just guess that these are great spot for a little picnic. At least I saw quite a few Vietnamese doing that. With only the noise from the falls, and great view it is difficult to find a better spot. Maybe noon is not the best time, going there in the afternoon might be nicer, though it is probably much busier as well.
Overall Ban Gioc is definitely worth the journey to this area. The falls are impressive, and the location is just stunningly beautiful. It really invites you to relax a bit there, and not just to rush through.
While you could do a day trip from Cao Bang to the falls and head back, the area deserves some time and there are some options to stay for the night
Next to the falls is the posh looking Saigon Ban Gioc Resort. It is probably the nicest hotel, but also the most expensive one. On the road to the west are two hotels along the road. I checked one of them, and it is definitely not a very nice hotel, with dirty floors and rather large cockroaches on the floor – dead though.
Between the fall and the village nearby is the Kieu Thanh Nguyet Guesthouse located in a little hamlet. It is 10 minute away from the falls, and a great place to stay. Here is my review of the guesthouse.
Food & Drinks
At the falls are stalls selling some typical Vietnamese dishes. You can also buy water or other drinks from the vendors. The last stall before the fall is selling refreshing sugar cane juice.
Between the falls and the two hotels is a food place (next to the entrance to the temple) where you can get some nice dishes.
What to do
In addition of the beautiful waterfall the other attraction in this area is the stunning Động Ngườm Ngao cave. It is near the Kieu Thanh Nguyet guesthouse, off TL206. Otherwise you could visit the waterfall as part of the Cao Bang Loop to explore the beauty of the north-east of Vietnam.