Separating Vietnam from China, Ban Gioc is a cascade of white falls spraying down from jungled limestone crags into a series of inviting blue pools. The area is well on the tourist trail and can be quite crowded in peak season; however, it shouldn’t be missed. Most individuals opt for vans or buses, yet in true Vietnamese fashion the most fun way to get there is by motorbike.
Leaving Cao Bang
Ban Gioc is most easily reached from the small city of Cao Bang, which is a gateway to numerous pristine natural beauties all along well established motorbike loops. It’s a good place to set up shop for a few days if you’ve got the time. It’s best to leave earlier in the morning to try to beat the crowds who will inevitably arrive, rain or shine. Head to the centrally located Xanh Market for some delicious breakfast Pho before riding north.
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The ride north
After leaving Cao Bang, a road marked KH-BG ambles north for five or 10 miles before running into QL3. As soon as you turn right here, the foliage thickens and limestone peaks tower into view. Rice terraces step down into fertile valleys as the road slices up and down, zig-zagging north. Further along, limestone mining has left giant gashes hundreds of feet up in the hillsides.
In the winter months, dense fog can roll in quickly, leaving you feeling a bit trapped at sea as the peaks of mountains poke out in the distance. Large trucks shipping goods between China and Vietnam make certain stretches of this a bit harrowing. However, soon enough the road splits and those heading to China veer off to the left.
The ride continues through flat rice paddies and small villages while 200-foot juts shoot out sporadically in the distance. Eventually you need to turn left and northeast toward the DT206 through similar pretty scenery. The road winds on before eventually running head on into the Quây Sơn River.
The final 10 or 15 kilometers hugs the river and can take some time because you’ll be stopping for photos so often. Bamboo waterwheels spin slowly as limestone giants rise up toward the Chinese border reflecting back across toward the road. Eventually the sound of the cascading falls grows in the distance and the first ribbons of spray peak out through the jungle. Stop for photos from the road before making your way down as the view is superb.
Down to the river
The entrance to the falls isn’t very clearly marked, yet it’s easy enough to spot once riding by. A dirt road switches back into the hillside and all the way down to the falls. Parking for a bike is 10,000 VND and an entry fee to the falls is 45,000.
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