Tra Linh is a small town in the north-east of Cao Bang province on road TL210, next to the Chinese border. This place clearly has a border town feel to it with the amount of lorries waiting here overnight to cross the border.
The only real reason to stop here is either for lunch, or to find a place to sleep when doing the Cao Bang Loop. Otherwise you would just pass it. People here are friendly, and as not many foreigners stay there, you will approached a few times by locals who would lie to practise their English. Oh, and you might get stared at – a lot.
Arrival / Departure
I assume there might be buses connecting Tra Linh to Cao bang, but I didn’t see any bus station. Not that I would expect any tourists to arrive here by bus. If you travel by bike you will most likely come from Pak Bo cave via the beautiful mountain road. THis road will lead you directly into town passing the market with several shops. For a hotel or food place follow the little road down after the market instead of turning right. At the crossroad you will find a petrol station, hotel and food.
I followed two roads and did not see any guesthouses, so the only place I found was a hotel at the crossing where the petrol station is.
I have not seen any other alternatives. Due to the poor quality I would rather recommend following the road for another 20 km until you reach Ho Thang Hen lake where you find some interesting looking homestay like accommodation. It definitely looked a much nicer surrounding.
Food & Drinks
Opposite the hotel are two food places, the one on the left looking a bit busier. The pho was very good, and some of the dishes I saw looked good as well – though they had no menu in English.
Passing the train station there was a little cafe / karaoke bar where you can get ca fe su da or a beer. You might encounter some locals who might invite you to some karaoke.
What to do
Tra Linh is not a place to stop for activities. However, the market is very interesting for a little stroll. You can see locals selling various goods from fresh meat, fruits to tools – just your typical colourful market. On the right side you find several food stalls selling pho or some interesting rice donuts. So when in Tra Linh and the market is open it should be visited.