Ban Gioc Waterfall: A Guide

Last updated January 2018 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

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Ban Gioc Waterfall is one of Vietnam’s most impressive natural sights. Located in the northeastern province of Cao Bang, the falls are 30 metres high and 300 metres across, making Ban Gioc the widest (but not the highest) waterfall in the country. The falls occur on the Quay Son River, a beautiful jade-blue body of water flowing from China through a pastoral landscape of rice fields and bamboo groves surrounded by limestone pinnacles. Despite improved road access and public transportation connections, and the popularity of several recent viral drone videos showcasing the majesty of the falls, Ban Gioc is still a relatively off-the-beaten-path sight. Mass tourism has yet to arrive and, outside of weekends and public holidays, there’s rarely more than a trickle of foreign and domestic visitors.

Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang Province, VietnamBan Gioc Waterfall is one of Vietnam’s most impressive natural sights, yet it remains rarely visited

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GUIDE: BAN GIOC WATERFALL


In this guide, I’ve written a description of the waterfall and surrounding area, including places to see and things to do, followed by information about accommodation, food and drink, and transportation, and my annotated map of the region. The waterfall can be visited at any time of year, but, in my opinion, the best time is from September to October, when the summer rains that feed the falls are less frequent and the harvest is in full swing. Ban Gioc waterfall can be combined with a visit to the nearby Nguom Ngao caves (which are included in the guide below) and as part of my Northeast Loop. For more interesting destinations in the region, take a look at the Related Posts.

Click an item below to read more about it:

MAP:

Ban Gioc Waterfall & surrounds, Cao Bang Province


View in a LARGER MAP

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The Waterfall & Caves:

At Ban Gioc, the Quay Son River forms the border between Vietnam and China. Consequently, the falls are half in Vietnam and half in China. Both countries have bamboo rafts that punt visitors around the base of the falls for better views of the cascade: you can literally shake hands with Chinese tourists on the other rafts. Ban Gioc waterfall is roughly 360km from Hanoi, reached via a good national highway to Cao Bang City, and then several recently upgraded provincial roads, leading through fantastic countryside to the falls (see Transportation). It’s now easier than ever to visit Ban Gioc, but still very few people, especially foreign travellers, make it here. A perfect destination if you’re on a motorbike road trip following the Northeast Loop, or an independent traveller looking to get off-the-beaten-track, this waterfall is a favourite destination of mine and is bound to be a major draw-crowd in the future.

Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang Province, VietnamBorderlands: Ban Gioc waterfall is half in Vietnam, half in China

Before reaching Ban Gioc falls, the Quay Son River ambles through a sumptuous valley, studded with limestone karsts. I warm to this gentle landscape, and it’s been one of my favourite corners of the country ever since I first visited the area in 2009. On a trip in 2014, I was lucky enough to camp on the river bank here during the night of a lunar eclipse.

Quay Son River Valley, Cao Bang Province, VietnamBefore reaching the falls, the Quay Son River ambles through a sumptuous valley

There’s an impressive limestone cave system, called Nguom Ngao caves (entrance: 40,000vnd [$2]), just a few kilometres on the right before reaching Ban Gioc waterfall. A kilometre-long walkway leads through the caves, which are beautifully lit and very impressive. Tread carefully because the pathway can be very slick, thanks to the dripping of calcium carbonate, which forms the stalactites that you see all around you.

Nguom Ngao caves, Cao Bang Province, VietnamNguom Ngao caves, just a couple of kilomotres before Ban Gioc falls, are very atmospheric & well-lit

Farming techniques can’t have changed much here in centuries: save for some mechanized rice threshers, most of the work is done by hand. One piece of ‘technology’ you’ll see along the banks of the river is the bamboo water wheel. This attractive, medieval-looking device scoops up water from the river, carries it up to the level of the fields, and drops it into earth gutters, which channel the water into the fields to irrigate the crops. It’s a hypnotic, peaceful and timeless sight. However, it would appear that they are slowly dying out: on my last visit, only a few of them were operating, and a couple were in a state of neglect.

Bamboo water wheel on the Quay Son River, Cao Bang ProvinceA hypnotic sight: bamboo water wheels line the Quay Son River as it flows towards Ban Gioc falls

The serenity of this valley is suddenly and dramatically broken when the Quay Son River reaches a 300 metre-wide limestone ledge, and drops sharply down several terraces, creating Ban Gioc waterfall. Some brave (or foolhardy) fishermen stand in precarious positions, casting their lines into the cascade.

Fishing from the cascade, Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang ProvincePrecarious: a fisherman casts his line atop Ban Gioc falls

Because the falls are located right on the Chinese border, foreign travellers used to require a special permit to visit the area. But today, you can just turn up and buy a ticket (45,000vnđ [$2]) at the kiosk without any documents at all, before walking down a gravel path to the waterfall. (Very occasionally, the ticket kiosk may ask to see your passport.) The path threads through rice fields, over wooden bridges above gurgling creeks, and onto an exposed grassy bank at the bottom of the falls. The wide, white cascade is fringed with foliage and framed by sharp, tooth-like limestone mountains, which are partly obscured by drifting clouds of vapour from all the spray generated by the waterfall. A good viewing point is from the newly constructed hilltop temple and pagoda on the south side of the road, opposite the falls.

Ban Gioc Waterfall, seen from the road, Cao Bang ProvinceA panorama of Ban Gioc falls, seen from the ticket entrance at the road on the Vietnamese side

Apart from a new hotel, the only tourist infrastructure at the falls themselves are a few unattractive wood and concrete shacks covered by blue tarpaulins and corrugated iron roofs, selling snacks and trinkets. Happily, Ban Gioc has yet to be subjected to the ‘Disneyfication’ (think concrete elephants, papier-mâché unicorns, and tacky theme park rides) that spoil so many of Vietnam’s natural attractions. Litter, too, is still not a real problem, although on my last visit I did see some of the vendors dumping their trash in the streams. There are lots of beautiful spots around the base of the falls on which to sit and take in the spectacle. Find a place on a pebbly beach or grassy bank, perch on a boulder in a stream or lay in the curving trunk of a tropical tree, and gaze in awe at one of Vietnam’s most romantic sights. Providing you don’t visit on a weekend or public holiday, you may have it almost all to yourself.

Relaxing at Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang ProvinceTaking in the views: there are plenty of spots to idle the day away, and it’s rarely busy at Ban Gioc falls

Bamboo rafts (50,000vnđ [$2] per person) punt visitors closer to the cascade for better views. The ‘ride’ lasts about 10 minutes and you’ll definitely get wet. In some areas, signs in Vietnamese read ‘No Swimming!’ But it’s difficult to resist taking a plunge in one of the blue pools of water, especially around the smaller falls to the left of the central waterfall. There’s usually no one there to stop you bathing, and I’ve never encountered any resistance (although I’m sure this will change as the falls become more popular). But, of course, you should be very careful: stick to the placid rock pools and stay well away from the main cascade.

Punting on bamboo rafts, Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang ProvinceGetting wet: bamboo rafts punt visitors around the base of Ban Gioc falls

Across a wooden bridge to a beach beneath the falls, there’s a treacherous path leading up through jungle to the first and second tiers of the waterfall. Not for the faint-hearted – or for those without proper footwear – this track climbs steeply among vines and roots to several gorgeous pools of blue running water. Tread carefully because the rocks are slippery and soon you’ll reach the edge of a ledge, from where the water drops straight down into a giant limestone bowl below. Again, there are some half-hearted attempts to block access to this path, and if you choose to climb it, you do so at your own risk.

View from the path behind Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao BangTake the treacherous path up the side of the waterfall & be rewarded with fabulous views

It’s possible to wander further and higher up the side of the falls for even more spectacular views of the deluge from above. It’s an awesome sight – in the true sense of the word – but be extremely careful, and don’t even think about attempting it if it’s been raining. There are no handrails so if you slip there’s nothing to hold onto except exposed roots. You can find the start of the path at the bottom of the falls behind a milestone marking the Vietnamese border, located over a rickety wooden bridge.

View from the top of the path behind Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao BangClimb even higher up the treacherous path (at your own risk) for a bird’s-eye view of the entire waterfall

Considering the waterfall’s proximity to China, and the frosty history (both ancient and recent) between the two countries, the atmosphere at Ban Gioc is very relaxed. Official presence on either side of the falls is minimal and, as seen in the photo below, Vietnamese floating vendors often approach Chinese rafts to sell their wares to Chinese tourists.

A Vietnamese floating vendor & a Chinese tourist raft, Ban Gioc WaterfallA Vietnamese vendor approaches a raft of Chinese tourists to sell her wares

It’s easy to forget that this province was one of several points along the Vietnamese border where, in February 1979, Chinese forces entered Vietnam under the orders of Deng Xiaoping. There were many reasons for the invasion, but ultimately it was an extension of tensions between the Soviet Union and China (Vietnam having signed a treaty with the USSR in 1978). Thousands of Vietnamese and Chinese were killed and, when the Chinese army departed (or retreated, depending on whose version of events you believe), they laid waste to the land they had briefly occupied. Along the road that follows the border just beyond the falls, there are memorial shrines dedicated to local Vietnamese who died during the 1979 war. Border disputes continued into the 1980s, and included the historic Nam Quan Gate, an ancient gateway between the two countries, which ultimately ended up on the Chinese side. The photo below shows a border marker on the Vietnamese side of the Quay Son River: just 20 metres away, across the river, is China. At some points along this road, the distance between the two countries is as little as five metres.

Border near Ban Gioc Waterfall: Vietnam in the foreground, China across the riverA border marker on the Vietnamese side of the Quay Son River: China is on the opposite bank

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Accommodation:

On the Chinese side of the river there’s a hotel on the hill, but until recently the Vietnamese side hadn’t seen any significant development. However, a new mid-range resort, called Saigon-Ban Gioc (tel: 091 542 4228), has now opened on the road directly opposite the entrance to the falls. It’s quite a big, sprawling complex but not high enough to be an eyesore. Rooms are good, comfortable and OK value for the price ($40-$50). Breakfast (which isn’t very good) is included in the price, and the restaurant/bar serves lots of Vietnamese dishes and some alcohol too. If you get a room on the higher terraces you can just about see the falls from your balcony, hemmed in by forested limestone mountains. Staying here is a good idea if you want to see the falls at dusk or dawn, which is when they look their best and there’s absolutely nobody around.

As well as the Saigon-Ban Gioc Resort, there are a handful of local guest houses (nhà nghỉ in Vietnamese) on either side of the road, between the Nguom Ngao Caves and the waterfall. Ha Vuong Hotel (tel: 096 281 1311), Phuong Troi Hotel (tel: 0167 4341 831), and Kieu Thanh Nguyet Guest House (tel: 096 966 1992) are all just west of the falls on Road DT206. They all offer simple but clean rooms for around 200,000vnd ($10).

Saigon-Ban Gioc Resort, Cao Bang Province, VietnamRecently opened, the Saigon-Ban Gioc Resort is the first major hotel development at the waterfall

There are also one or two local nhà nghỉ in Trung Khanh, the nearest town to Ban Gioc falls, 25km to the west: try Minh Duc Guest House (tel: 0206 3826 588). This is a good option for intrepid travellers, because Trung Khanh is a dusty, rustic border town with a wild west edge. There are several crumbling pastel-coloured shophouses and an interesting daily market with various imported goods from China. You’re pretty much guaranteed to be the only foreign traveller in town.

Quang Uyen, a town at the junction of roads QL3 and DT206 halfway between Cao Bang and Ban Gioc falls, also has some decent places to stay. Duy Huong Hotel (tel: 0206 6266 888), Tuan Hien Guest House (tel: 0206 3821 666), and Tuyet Niem Hotel (tel: 0206 6285 285) are all fine for a night on the road.

Shophouse in Trung Khanh, near Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang ProvincePainted shopfront on the dusty streets of Trung Khanh, a possible overnight option, 25km from Ban Gioc

However, the vast majority of visitors to Ban Gioc stay at one of the dozens of accommodation options in Cao Bang City, 90km west of the falls. Cao Bang, the provincial capital, is a bustling, likable city on the banks of the Bang Giang River. Vuon Cam and Kim Dong (QL4A) streets are lined with places to stay. For mid-range rooms with river views try the Bang Giang Hotel (tel: 0206 3851; $20-$30), which has a fading Soviet grandeur that appeals to me. There are lots of budget beds to choose from: Hotel 89 has simple, clean, bright rooms or there’s a string of cheap mini-hotels down the southern end of Kim Dong Street (QL4A).

Cao Bang City on the Bang Giang River, VietnamCao Bang City, 90km west of Ban Gioc waterfall, is where most travellers stay: there are lots of hotels

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Food & Drink:

Although there are plenty of good places to eat in Cao Bang City, food at and around Ban Gioc waterfall is not so readily available. At meal times you’ll find basic local rice and noodle eateries (quán cơm phở in Vietnamese) in most small towns in the area, like Trung Khanh (especially around the market) and Quang Uyen. There are also a few informal rice joints along the roadside between Ban Gioc falls and Nguom Ngao caves. (For more about quán cơm read this.) The new Saigon-Ban Goic Resort has a restaurant serving dozens of Vietnamese dishes. Prices are fairly reasonable and food is decent quality.

Noodle soup vendor, Cao Bang Province, VietnamThere are informal noodle soup & rice stalls, like this one, near Ban Gioc falls & the surrounding villages

In Cao Bang, there’s a lot of food and drink available, especially on Vuon Cam Street. Thu Ngan eatery is an excellent casual dining spot: do as the locals do and walk up to the counter, point at what dishes you want with your rice and sit down to a metallic tray of good food. There are dozens of dishes to choose from and it’s dirt cheap. Or, if you’re craving Western food, Cao Bang has an couple of (unexpected) pizza joints: check out Pizza Chi. For breakfast there are lots of soup kitchens on Vuon Cam Street, including bánh cuốn (steamed rice flour rolls), a dish that’s very popular in northern Vietnam. Domino Cafe is a good place for coffee, and you can stock up on picnic supplies (such as bánh mì baguettes) at and around the Cho Xanh market.

Noodle soup, Cao Bang Province, VietnamCao Bang City has plenty of eating options, including local noodle soups for breakfast

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Transportation:

Ban Gioc waterfall is 90km east of Cao Bang (see map). The easiest and most enjoyable way to reach Ban Gioc is by motorbike. If you don’t already have one, motorbikes are available for rent from some hotels and guest houses in Cao Bang for around 200,000vnd ($10) per day. Alternatively, many accommodations in Cao Bang can arrange a day trip to the falls by hired car with a driver. Another option is to take public transportation: small local buses run from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc and back again several times each day. Ask the staff at your accommodation for more information.

Local buses run between Cao Bang City & Ban Gioc Waterfall several times dailyLocal buses, like this one, run between Cao Bang City & Ban Gioc waterfall several times daily

Getting to Cao Bang from Hanoi is pretty straightforward: Either take a bus (including comfortable, two-level sleeper buses) from Hanoi’s My Dinh Bus Station (8 hours) or, if you have your own wheels, take Highway QL3 (which is in excellent condition for most of the way and passes great scenery) from Hanoi to Cao Bang (280km). From Cao Bang to the falls stay on Highway QL3 east via the scenic Ma Phuc Pass to Quang Uyen, then turn left (due north) on Road DT206, which veers east at the town of Trung Khanh before reaching Ban Gioc waterfall. Bear in mind that, if you plan to continue riding beyond Ban Gioc waterfall and along the Chinese border on roads DT206 and DT207, these roads are in pretty bad condition and should be avoided for the time being, unless you are an experienced rider and have a bike that is suitable for off-roading. (Note: the falls are also part of my Northeast Loop.)

The Ma Phuc Pass between Cao Bang City & Ban Gioc WaterfallRiding to Ban Gioc is very scenic, especially the Ma Phuc Pass (pictured) between Cao Bang the falls


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53 Responses to Ban Gioc Waterfall: A Guide

  1. David says:

    Hi
    i’m wanting to ride here in August. Do you know if it’s possible to rent of road bike in Cao Bang? If not do you know if it’s possible to rent a bike in Hanoi and put it on a bus up to Cao Bang? I’m wanting to do the full North East loop and don’t fancy the extra drive from Hanoi to Cao Bang. Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    David

    • Hi David,

      Yes, you should be able to rent motorbikes in Cao Bang. Try asking at the budget hotels in the city.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Danny says:

        I rode up from Cao Bang yesterday, tons of outlets to rent from in Cao Bang. Route referenced above was in great condition (9/10). Read the section from the NE loop post and take your sweet time riding up, literally feels like riding through a dream.

        Stop for lunch at Quan 2000 in Trùng Khánh, if you’re nice the owner will give you a back massage after your meal which hit the spot after 4 straight days of riding.

        Safe travels.

  2. Luisa says:

    Hey!
    There’s a new and very nice homestay near Ban Gioc, it’s located in a small village on the way to the Nguom Ngao Cave. It’s called Khuõi Ky Homestay. I paid 100 for the night plus 75 for dinner and breakfast. They even put on their traditional clothes and performed some songs for us!

  3. Sophie Small says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for another excellent post. I would love to visit Ban Gioc by motorbike but unfurtunately don’t have enough time to do the whole northeast loop. Do you think it would be reasonable to get the bus to Cao Bang from Hanoi, stay in Cao Bang 1 night, drive to Ban Gioc the next day and spend the night there and then drive back to Cao Bang the next day in time to get the overnight bus back to Hanoi at 18:30. I know you can do it by day trip in a van but a day seems a bit short considering photo stops on the bike and spending time at the falls. Thanks,
    Sophie

  4. Jeff says:

    Hey Tom,

    Thanks for another great post. I saw that you went camping in this area :). I have all my camping gear with me and am wondering if you suggest any spots near the waterfalls? Would be great!

    • Hi Jeff,

      Try to cross the river before reaching the waterfall, there’s some nice pasture land there where I camped. Remember to be as discreet as possible.

      Hope you enjoy it,

      Tom

    • Rick says:

      Just been reading up and Looking to Leaver Tuyen Quang in a couple of days, to head to Hai Giang then across towards Meo Vac,then turning towards Cao bang, as ive done the northern loop,i wa sthink to stop off in Ba Be first and stay there so i dont back track what, are your thoughts going this way and also i see the weather report says a few days of rain ,do you think these reports to be very accurate or are they just hit and miss,love your Bloggs Rick

      • Hi Rick,

        I think the weather’s generally pretty unpredictable in those mountainous regions. The problem is that heavy rains can cause landslides which can close roads for hours, or even days, and even once they’re cleared they can be very muddy and difficult to ride. Personally, I’d go for it anyway; just ride carefully.

        Going southeast from Meo Vac to Ba Be you can follow QL34 then turn south on DT212 – that’s a scenic road.

        I hope this helps,

        Tom

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  7. Danyelle says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m going to post this on my FB page, it’s so great and looks so beautiful. Thanks for this great blog and sharing.

    Dany
    https://www.facebook.com/danyelleekelly/

  8. Mili says:

    Im a photographer who really look forward to visit this water fall. I had this idea to visit this after seen a photograph(bird view) taken by national geographic. Sadly got to know that it was taken from china side. I really need to take the same photograph. Please tell me is there any option for me to go to china side and take the photo without china visa (its bit hard to get china visa for Srilamkan). Or is there any place to have a birds eye view from forward from Vietnam side. Please help me.

    Image URL
    https://www.google.com/search?q=ban+gioc+waterfall&client=ms-android-kt-kr&prmd=mivn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiU0MrDnazNAhUBpI8KHatPAWkQ_AUICCgC&biw=360&bih=559&dpr=3#imgrc=MUcBUF9iutbUoM%3A

    • Hi Mili,

      Some people say that you can get across to the Chinese side, but I really wouldn’t risk it without a visa, and also because this is not an official border crossing.

      The falls are very beautiful from the Vietnamese side anyway and there are lots of different angles from which to photograph it: from the main entrance there is a good panorama of the entire falls; from the boats you can get a good view from below the falls; and from the path leading up above the falls (which I have described in this article) there are good aerial views down over the waterfall.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  9. Caroline says:

    Xin chào, Tom!
    Just letting you know that there is a nice ngà nghỉ (Nhà Nghỉ Kiều Thanh Nguyệt, ĐT: 0969 661 992, 0978 596 415) 3 km from Ban Gioc waterfalls which is run by a really nice woman for 200,000 VND a night. Rooms are clean and cosy and the gate is locked at night so motorbikes are safely parked inside. It is on the road towards Đông Ngươm Ngao.

    Dich Van 2 Hotel was slightly more expensive and the rooms looked dilapidated and grubby for the price quoted.

    Hope that helps other “phươt” and travellers making their way around the northeast who would like a quiet, little neighbourhood to stay at close to Ban Gioc. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Caroline

    • Hi Caroline,

      Thanks for the update! That’s a great little bit off info for anyone travelling to Ban Gioc and wanting to stay the night.

      Enjoy the rest of your road trip! 🙂

      Tom

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks for the hotel recommendation, Caroline! We’re here now and it’s great. I think we’re paying 250,000 vnd for 2 people. The Saigon tourist resort is complete, but rooms are 1.2 million dong.

      It took us 6 hours to get to the waterfall from Cao Bang going the longer way around Tom’s lollipop loop. Road conditions are poor for much of the drive. Sections have large piles of rock covering most of the road. Other sections are super muddy and torn up.

      • Hi Amanda,

        Thanks for sharing your experience of the area. Great to hear the hotel is good. Shame about the condition of the roads, but I hope the beautiful scenery made it worthwhile.

        Enjoy the rest of your trip,

        Tom

  10. Sally Emilia says:

    Hi Tom.
    I have plan going to Ban gioc waterfall on first week of May 2016. Its a good time to see the view
    n how about the safety because we will traveling with my sister n nephew ( 3 women).
    we are family from Indonesia. n can you tell me which way better travel from Hanoi or nanning .China
    n where we can find travel agent going to the area
    Thanks very much for informations in your blog

    • Hi Sally,

      Yes, I think May is a good time to see the waterfall.

      You should be very careful if you attempt to climb the path next to the waterfall which goes to the top of the falls, because it is very steep and can get very slippery.

      From Hanoi you can take a bus to Cao Bang City. From Cao Bang you can either arrange a taxi to the waterfall or organize transport through your hotel. I don’t know about travel information from the Chinese side. If you want to arrange a tour to Ban Gioc Waterfall from Hanoi you can ask about it at the reception of your hotel in Hanoi.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  11. Stefan says:

    Hi Tom,

    I am currently considering to spend some time in the north coming May. My first plan was to do the Ha Giang Loop for 5 days, and then head to Ba Be lake for some relaxation time. Seeing the pictures I really would like to visit the falls as well now. Initially I thought spending 9 full days there (excluding ravelling to and from Hanoi), but might add 1 or 2 days. Would this be sufficient to explore the area, with some time to sit back, relaxing, reading a book and enjoying the atmosphere?
    I want to do it by bike. Initially I though I would it riding pillion (as I did in Vietnam a few times already). But now I would be tempted to ride on my own. I have no licence, and rode a motorbike a few times (done the Thakhke Loop and Bolaven Plateau lop in Laos) and would take a few lessons back home (or even doing a licence beforehand). Do you think it is safe to do so?

    Also, how is the weather in My? Dry? I know I will miss the harvest time of the rice fields, but cannot travel any other time this year.
    Sorry for all the questions.

    BTW – I love your website. It really is inspiring.
    Stefan

    • Hi Stefan,

      9 days is plenty of time to explore the area, but obviously the more time you have the better it will be.

      I think it’s a good idea to ride by yourself on a bike – it sounds like you have enough experience. Just take it easy because the roads in that area are very mountainous.

      The weather in May should be pretty good – warm and dry with some rain. There should already be a lot of colours in the fields by that time of year.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Stefan says:

        Thanks Tom,

        the more I read the more I really want to visit and spend as much time there as possible.
        I assume you travelled alone on your bike. So when you went for a little walk, what did you do with your bag? I think you cannot just leave it on the bike, right?

        Also, one logistical issue is if I rent a bike in Ha Gaing I need to return it there. I would actually prefer to stop at Ba Be lake, and not returning to Ha Giang. Do you think the woner would send someone to pick you up for a fee? or is that just not possible ,and I would need either ride pillion or bite the bullet and ride back to Ha Giang?

        Sorry for all the questions, just trying to get a plan formed in my head.

        Thanks again,

        Stefan

        • Hi Stefan,

          Yes, that’s right, if you rent a bike from Ha Giang then you would probably have to return it to Ha Giang yourself. You can still ride the Ha Giang Extreme North Loop and on to Ba Be and then loop back to Ha Giang on the lower route (Road 34) which is more direct.

          Yes, when you stop for a walk or a swim etc then you’ll need to take your stuff with you – although you only really need to take your valuable things with you which you’ll probably be carrying in a small backpack on the front of your bike, so it’s not really that inconvenient. You’ll work out a system after a couple of days on the bike – everyone has their own way.

          Tom

  12. marco says:

    Hey Tom

    Do you know if it is possible to visit the chinese part of the falls as well? And from which side do you get the best overview, like the one on this picture
    http://halong-sapatourbooking.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ban-gioc.jpg

    Thanks for the good info!

    • Hi Marco,

      That image is taken from the Chinese side. You can view the waterfall from the Chinese side, but you will have to enter China at one of the border gates in Vietnam – the nearest is Dong Dang near Lang Son to the south of Ban Gioc Falls. Note that Chinese visas must be arranged in advance.

      Tom

  13. Muri says:

    I absolutely loved that waterfall and in general the countryside around Cao Bang in general – absolutely amazing limestone scenery!

    But I still think that the Nguo Ngao cave you mentioned above represented the climax for me personally – I even liked it better than the overcrowded Phong Nha caves. Absolutely mindblowing!

    The only negative aspect of my daytrip back then was the to ride back to Cao Bang City – in complete darkness and without working lights on my Honda Win. 😀 You have to be really careful with water buffaloes and other dark obstacles in the night…

  14. Zdenek says:

    Hi Tom,

    at what point can I find bamboo water wheel?
    Thanks for posting this blog.
    Zdenek

    • Hi Zdenek,

      There are several bamboo water wheels along the Quay Son River between Trung Khanh and Ban Gioc Waterfall. I’ve written about the route in more detail in my guide to the Northeast Loop here.

      I hope you find them.

      Tom

  15. Marc says:

    Hey Tom!
    congratulations on a most excellent blog. I sincerely appreciate your efforts to educate those of us that would otherwise never find some of these gems you have posted. My trip to Ban Gioc waterfall would happen around mid-November. Is there still good flow in the waterfall in mid November? Are the colors still high in the area and would this trip be your top recommendation for N.E. Vietnam for that time of year? Lastly, is there anywhere near the falls at a homestay perhaps to rent a motor bike for touring the area? If not, what would be the last place on the way to the falls to rent a motorbike? Thanks for your guidance Tom.
    Marc

    • Hi Marc,

      I would think November is probably still OK for weather and water flow at Ban Gioc Falls. However, if you’re travelling toward the end of November you should be prepared for some fairly chilly temperatures.

      There’s still very little infrastructure around the falls, so finding a motorbike to rent in the immediate vicinity might be a bit difficult. Most people choose to rent their motorbike from Cao Bang, 80km to the west. It’s a beautiful ride from Cao Bang to the falls and back. If you leave early in the morning then you can do it in one day, if not then just stay the night somewhere, such as Quang Uyen. You can read more about Cao Bang and that area in my guide to the Northeast Loop.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  16. Vitaly says:

    Thanks a lot for your info about this area!

  17. Josiah Crum says:

    Hi Tom,

    My wife and I are in Vietnam for one month and Ban Gioc is on our list. We have had a hard time organizing out plans and are starting to wonder if it is worth it. We like going off the beaten path and I think the falls look stunning. We have the time but are wondering if it is worth it? What is the water flow like at the end of April? How would a 2-night trip work. Train to Cao Bang, stay there one night, the falls on day 2, and then stay one more night, return to Hanoi the next day. Does this sound reasonable. What type of lodging and or transportation should be arranged before hand. Thanks for the help!

    Josiah

    • Hi Josiah,

      Personally, I think the falls and the area in general are worth a trip. But it’s quite a distance for such a short trip. I would recommend spending an extra 2 nights and combining the falls with a trip to Ba Be Lake either on the way to or from the falls. I’ve written extensively about that whole area in this article about the Northeast.

      I would imagine that the flow should be enough to render the falls an impressive sight. However, I would check with a reputable travel agent that’s based in the north of Vietnam for more info – try emailing Flamingo Travel and asking them about the flow in April.

      Cao Bang is not connected by train. Buses (including night buses) leave Hanoi for Cao Bang daily. From Cao Bang it should be easy to arrange private transport to the falls through your hotel. Or you could rent a motorbike and drive there.

      There’s plenty of accommodation in Cao Bang. You can do the falls as a day trip from Cao Bang if you leave early in the morning. Travel time from Cao Bang to the falls is about 2 hours but the scenery is marvellous so you might want to take it slow.

      There are a handful of local nhà nghỉ (guesthouses) around the falls, including some in Khanh and Quang Uyen. Again there’s more about that in the Northeast article.

      I hope you have a great trip.

      Tom

  18. Abby says:

    I am looking to go to ba be lake, ban gioc waterfal, and the surrounding cao bang province for several days at the end of my time here in Vietnam. I may not have a lot of time (3-5 days). I was wondering what you think the minimal amount of time spent here should be, and how you think you should spend those days (how many days at each place)? Thanks!

    Abby

    • Hi Abby,

      Around 4 days is probably sufficient. Cao Bang City is a good base from which to visit the surrounding countryside. A day trip to Ban Gioc Waterfall is good. And a couple of days spent exploring Ba Be Lakes on foot, bike, boat – whatever takes your fancy. Staying in a homestay there is nice. So 2 days Ba Be Lakes, 1 day Cao Bang City, 1 day Ban Gioc Waterfall, plus a ‘lost day’ – 4-5 days should be fine.

      Tom

  19. Svetlana says:

    Dear Tom, I’m currently planning my trip (which is in 6 days) according to places you describe and recommend. Your webside is the best I saw to help travellers get most of their trips away from the beaten paths. Thank very much!

    I have and urgent question for you: Does it make sense to visit the waterfall in the end of December – beginning of January as the wet season is over and there is a risk that I would find the waterfall with little water and far not as picturesque as on your pictures?

    • Hi Svetlana,
      Apologies for the late reply.
      I think the water flow at Ban Gioc Waterfall in December will be significantly less than in my photos, which were taken in early October. However, there’s still plenty of rain around in that region during the winter months, so I think the falls would still look good enough to justify a visit. But, it’s worth remembering that the weather can be rather cold and grey at that time of year, and the harvest colours will be long gone. Perhaps it’s better to save Ban Gioc Waterfall for another trip during the warmer, brighter summer/autumn months.
      Have a great trip,
      Tom

  20. Nguyen says:

    Tom, thanks for posting this blog. I travelled to Ban Gioc fall in 1999 a long time ago but it is amazing to see the fall is still very much under develop (which is a good thing). I did also swim in the river and that was a great memory.

  21. Alan Murray says:

    Another great in-depth travelogue – you obviously had more time than when I visited earlier in the year on a whistle-stop tour of Cao Bang and Ha Giang provinces.
    The impression I got was that all the photogenic parts of the waterfall are actually in China; Vietnam having just some very unspectacular falls up which you climbed – perhaps I’m wrong?
    The main thing that struck me was how run down the whole place was; having walked down the gravel path, the rest of the route was just a muddy track which led to two rickety bridges which, even by Vietnamese standards of ‘elf and safety, were dangerous. A few million Dong spent on maintenance would make all the difference! In sharp contrast was the millions of Dollars being spent on the tourist resort being carved out of the nearby hillside. Will all the tourists be obliged to use the same unsafe bridges?
    Vietnam is surely a land full of contrasts but even more fascinating for that fact.

    • Hi Alan,

      The falls seemed pretty photogenic to me – no matter what side of the border you view them from. If anything I would say that Vietnam has more of the waterfall than China because it has half of the main falls plus the other smaller falls, which while not on such a grand scale, are very pretty indeed.

      As regards the condition of the site, I was relieved to see that litter had been kept to a minimum, despite groups of Vietnamese picnickers, which I’m sorry to say is usually a catalyst for trash. Personally, I like the rickety bridges and muddy paths, it makes the whole experience all the more rustic and ‘real’. One day the path to the falls will be paved, there will be steps up to the higher cascades, the resort will be finished, and with this ease of access this natural site will inevitably lose some of its magic. Of course it’s great that more people will be able to see it, and health and safety will be enforced, but I’m glad I got to see Ban Gioc waterfall before the infrastructure for mass tourism is put in place. The ‘run-down’ look holds a certain charm for me.

      Tom

  22. Tuc says:

    Thanks Tom for taking me to this part of Viet Nam where I only heard of. My mother was born in Cao Bang many moons ago before move to the South in 1954. We never have a chance to make a homage trip. I can only hope to make a trip there one day.
    I enjoy your nice photos and history lesson.
    Happy travel!!!

  23. Jim Ellis says:

    Tom I sure am glad to have found this. Your pictures are so inspiring that it makes me want to return which I swore to never do. I lost many good friends at Vung Ro Bay. Why should I blame a country for a time that was not only confusing for them but for us also. You are a great photographer.

    Thank you again for this site.
    Jim Ellis
    Major retired Army.

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