Động Ngườm Ngao cave is a beautiful and surprisingly large cave near Ban Gioc waterfalls. It is not that well know, and located at the end of a little dirt road off TL206. Even though it is not on everybody’s radar, I would highly recommend adding a visit to this cave when heading to Ban Gioc.
How to get there
From Cao Bang it is around 90km to Ban Gioc, where the cave is located nearby. 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 20 minutes away from the cave falls. An alternative way is hiring a private car, or even better, try hiring a motorbike. The road from Cao Bang all the way to Ban Gioc and the cave 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 you see Kieu Thanh Nguyet Guesthouse on your right, turn right into the little dirt path and follow that road. This is actually a lovely little route with several villages dottet between fields. It has a very peasecul atmosphere. At the end of the road you find the ticket booth for the cave – though from there it is a little walk to the cave (5 minutes). In May 2016 there was heavy construction site ongoing on that dirt road, and it was impossible to get to the cave with a vehicle. Instead you might need to leave the bike at the construction site, and follow the road on foot. From the entrance booth the construction site continue as they try to enlarge the road there, I guess to enable cars and buses getting to the entrance of the cave.
The entrance of the cave is in a valley surrounded by karst hills, with fields dotted around them. From the ticket booth you follow the path through an “opening” between the hills, and soon reach the entrance to the cave. The tickets are checked here, and you can buy some water from some of the vendors. However, it is not as busy with vendors as Ban Gioc is.
Entering the cave you can enjoy the sudden drop of temperature after coming in from the May heat, though you can feel the humidity very quickly. Straight at the start you realise that no torches are needed. There are lights on the walls throughout the cave, providing enough light to walk safely, but without looking cheesy as other caves I visited. You just follow a path, and I doubt you could really get lost here – it is all nicely set up for visitors.
From the entrance a first steps are the first indication that you go downhill for a bit. The ceiling of the cave is not too high, but not low either. Sstalactites and stalagmite providing some interesting sights, and you pass some interesting rock formation. After a while the ceiling suddenly looks much lower, seemingly offering less space. Here is the first time you have to pass through some smaller openings, where you either have to watch your head, or even crouch through some smaller openings. If you have mobility issue, the cave isn’t really for you.
The well-built path continues to lead you through the inside of the mountain, bringing you further down, before climbing a few stairs up again. With the different sizes of the chambers, the beautiful rock formation it would be difficult not to enjoy walking in this cave.
Soon enough you will reach one of the highlights of the cave – a massive chamber with a large ceiling, and in the middle two rocks looking like a cactus tree. A human really looks tiny in comparison to these rocks, and for me this is the most impressive section of the cave. it is just impressive, stunning, beautiful. This is a time where you can just wonder how this was all created.
From the massive chamber you continue following the path with the high ceiling, until the path suddenly narrows, with the walls left and right coming closer together, offering an impressive site with the beautiful stalactites and stalagmite.
The path leads to another famous part of the cave – the silver tree. It is a single rock with a shape of a tree standing in the middle of the path. The silvery colour of the rock gives it the name. Surrounded is the tree by several rocks that look like mushroom, giving the area the suitable name of the Garden. Looking around you really can let your imagination run away. Some rocks look like vegetables, others like a dog.
From here the path continues to ascend, and soon enough you will leave the cave, coming out of the mountain above the entrance area, providing a nice view of the fields. Stairs will lead you down to the valley, where you can make your way towards your vehicle.
Overall it is a very impressive cave, and I didn’t expect it to be that large. It took me over 45 minutes to walk through the cave. I didn’t rush though, and enjoyed the view inside the mountain. But it highlights that this is not a small cave. A visit to the cave should be a must when you are in the area. I am sure you wouldn’t be disappointed.
While you could do a day trip from Cao Bang to see Ban Gioc and the Động Ngườm Ngao cave, the area deserves some time and there are some options to stay for the night.
Food & Drinks
While you can buy some drinks and some fruit, I didn’t see many food options near the entrance of the cave. It might be busier during the day. Otherwise you need to head to Ban Gioc falls or to the village in the west.
What to do
The other attraction is this area is obviously the Ban Gioc waterfall, which is the main reason for most tourists to visit this area. Otherwise you could visit this area as part of the Cao Bang Loop to explore the beauty of the north-east of Vietnam.