Pac Bo cave is in the most north-eastern part of Cao Bang province, next to the Chinese border. It is a very important site for Vietnamese, as it is seen as the starting point of the revolution that led to th independence of Vietnam. The reason for it is very simple – this is the place where Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam and stayed here for a few weeks. It is claimed that he started his campaign he planned for a long time. If you ar interested in history, this is an interesting site. But even if you are not interested in history, Pac Bo is a worthwhile destination due to the beautiful setting
How to get there
From Cao Bang it is around 60km to get to Pac Bo. I do not know if there buses going to the cave, or just to the village a few km before the cave. You could get an Xe On for that route (not sure about prices), or the easiest option is hiring a bike for a day to go there by yourself.
If you ride there on your own follow the QL3 out of Cao bang until you get to a large round inside town. Take the second exit (the one before you get back to the QL3). You are now on the Hoi Chi Minh Trail (TL208), just follow it for the next 60km. The road is in good condition, flat, and offering some nice views of the mountains on both side and lots of rice fields. THe scenery reminds one more of the Mekong Delta than the mountainous area. On the way you pass some villages with shops and food places for food and drinks. At the end of this road the rice fields to your left disappear continue going ahead following a little river. After passing a pagoda on a hill on your left ride through the gate and follow the dirt road down the hill. Turn left at the next crossing, and then right into another path. This path follows another stream. It will bring you to the entrances, where you can find spaces for your bike.
If you want to visit the pagoda as well, you can leave your bike next to the gate where various stalls
If you come from Tra Linh and travel along the border north, turn right at the round about when you come down the mountains and get onto the TL208. You will arrive at Pac Bo after a few minutes.
Before reaching the cave itself you pass a pagoda on a hill to your left. You can leave the bike at the gate next to the stall and pass the large park. You can either walk up the hill to your right after the park, or you can climb the stairs at the front of the hill. From the top the hill you have a nice view of the surrounding area. And on the top is the pagoda with a shrine for Ho Chi Minh, including a statue fo Uncle Ho. It seems visiting Vietnamese leave little offerings for him on the shrine. So it is a pilgrimage for Vietnamese to this place.
Back on the road is another important site – a monument highlighting the start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Here does the famous trail start. In 2017 th Vietnamese government established this marker. If you have travelled on the trail in the Central Highlands it is impressive to see the starting point here.
Following the path past some little rice terraces and a village you get to the entrance booth of the cave. The entry fee was in May 2016 was 20.000 Dong, while the parking fee was 10.000 Dong.
After the entrance you walk along a row of stalls selling typical souvenirs, and as well as bottled water. At the end of the stalls is a little roofed area with an elderly women selling fresh and more important cold sugar cane juice.
Opposite the stalls is a little stream pasing by while a hill behind is overlooking the peaceful scenery. You could easily sit here for a while to relax and enjoy the view.
From the stall the path continues along a stream to your right. After a few minutes you can either follow the path on that side, or cross the stream via a wooden bridge. As it is a circular path it is not important what way you go first. If you cross the bridge you get into a more shaded area, with trees covering the path, while on the other side the path is passing some fields with water buffalos. Between the two paths is now not a stream, but a beautiful pond, the water shimmering in a lovely green reflecting the colour of the trees. There are some plaques along the path, but they are in Vietnamese, so I do not know what they say.
On your right you will see then a little path going up the hills, partly with some stairs. This is the way towards the caves where Ho Chi Minh lived. The first one is a rather small one you can enter. From here another 150 you come to the larger cave, which due to some heat issues I had (most likely a little heat stroke) did not visit. Do not underestimate the humidity here. And also be aware of the free roaming goats in the area. It is lovely seeing them sitting along the path, adding something to this atmospheric place.
back on the path you could continue to walk around the pond, however, at the far end you have to do a detour via the hill as the path is not heading over the pond there.
If you do the full loop you will be able to see more of the area where Ho Chi Minh lived in 1941, including the chair where he apparently put parts of his plan onto paper. I must admit I am disappointed that I was unable to see every section of this beautiful place.
One thing I read about Pac Bo that it is not full of propaganda, posters etc, and I am glad it really is the case. The beauty of the site does all the talking, only plaques explaining in Vietnamese about the importance of the various parts. It would be nice if they had an English translation for it.
I would suggest spending 1 1/2 – 2 hours here to explore the area without rushing. The lovely and peaceful scenery also invites to just sit down and relax, taking in this very important site for the Vietnamese history, but also for the history of France and the US.
On warning though, due to the climb required to the caves itwelf and to comple the circular path, people ith mobility issues will struggle here.
You can easily do a day trip to Pac Bo. Thanks to the good condition the ride should take only 2 hours one way.I saw a guesthouse in the last village before the cave, but I would either return to Cao Bang, or follow the road along the border to wards Tra Linh to see some of the stunning scenery in this area.
Food & Drinks
After the entrance booth there are several souvenir stalls that sell water and little snacks. The last stall also offers cold sugar can juice, and a seat in the shade. Great place to sit down and enjoying the surrounding the peaceful atmosphere.
Next to the gate up the hill are also some stalls selling drink and food.
Otherwise you find little food places along the TL208.
What to do
The area between Cao Bang and Pac Bo could easily tempt you to stop a few times to enjoy the scenery, or turn into some of the little paths along the road.