Bao Lac is one of the larger places between Cao Bang and Ha Giang located on the road QL34. Due to its size and the number of guesthouses it is a good place for an overnight stay when travelling in this area.
The town has a lovely setting, with fields and mountains surrounding it, and a little river with water wheels flowing through town. In the afternoon you can watch the locals playing volleyball along the main road.
The main “tourist” area is next to the bridge in the middle of town, where a few hotels and food places are located. You will also find the local market there in the morning.
It is very easy to navigate through the place, as most roads will bring you back to the highway QL34.
Overall, it has a nice feel to it, and due to the infrastructure the best place in the area for an overnight stop.
Arrival / Departure
Bao Lac is a transport hub where you can changes buses coming from other parts of the Cao bang province (i.e. Cao Bang) to get to the northern places of Ha Giang, like Meo Vac. Uunfortunately I didn’t see the bus station in town.
If you travel on a bike, you cannot miss the town when travelling on QL34. If you arrive from the south you can get either get to the area with hotels by following the main road across the river (where you get a nice view) and turn right towards the hospital, or turn right off the main road, following the river. The first one looks more obvious.
Coming from the north just get off the QL34 when it takes a sharp right turn, and take the road ahead instead, passing the hospital.
Near the brdige in the centre of town are a number of hotels, including one larger looking one. So getting a room here shouldn’t be a problem at all. I stayed at the Khach San Duc Tai hotel, which is a very good option.
Food & Drinks
Near the hotel I only saw two food places next to the bridge, located ona small alley where the market is in the morning. THey are both in a building looking like a shed, with views to the rivers. I would avoid the one closer to the bridge, as they seem only to serve foreigners if they are there with a guide. It is the only place I have been to in SEA where I was not served, and ignored by the staff. I found that behaviour unacceptable.
There is a larger food place next door – but it was closed for a wedding during my stay.
On the main road is also a little food stall, serving rice soup on a large table. It is a good little snack, but not enough for dinner.
If you cross the bridge and follow the road a little bit you will find a number of little food places. In one of them you might be approached by a boy aged 12, who is looking for foreigners to practise his English. The place of his mother serves a nice Com Ga dish, and it is nice to have a little chat as well.
On the same road I also saw a Karaoke Bar, where you can get a beer. Otherwise I didn’t see many beer places there.
For breakfast head to the little market, where you find a little cart where you get some nice Banh Mi. For a nice coffee turn right coming out of Khach San Duc Tai hotel, and you will see a little cafe on the left after 2 minutes. It has a nice setting and serves a lovely ca fe sua da.
What to do
With the beautiful surrounding and the activities done by the locals in the afternoon a little stroll through Cao Bang might be a nice activity. The local market next to the bridge is not very large, and not as colourful as markets I have seen Nguyen Binh or Tra Linh. But you can get fresh fruit there.
Apparently there are some nice little side roads worthwhile to explore and you can see some little villages in the area. So if you have time you could easily spend a day in this area. But for me the main reason to stop in Bao Lac is the need for a place to stay for the night – and for that it is a great place.