The Vietnamese northern province of Cao Bang was always mysterious to me. My dream of exploring this place turned into reality since I did a weekend trip to Cao Bang in October, visiting a couple of places, including Ban Gioc Waterfall, Nguom Ngao Cave and Pac Bo historical site.
Cao Bang is about 285 km from Hanoi. It’s reached via a good national highway (actually better than I have expected) by transport means of your choice (sleeper buses, motorbikes or private cars, except trains). The night bus, which cost about 10 US dollars one way, took my friend and me about 8 hours to reach the city bus station. From here, we took a city bus to hit Ban Gioc Waterfall – one of local attractions.
The falls is located in Dam Thuy Commune, which is 90 km from Cao Bang city. The waterfall occurs on Quay Son River which originates from China. Before reaching the falls, the river ambles through different places and flows into rice fields as entering Dam Thuy Commune, then dramatically drops down several terraces, creating a beautiful Ban Gioc Waterfall.
Ban Gioc falls, which are considered a natural border between Vietnam and China, comprises of two separate waterfalls. The main one lies on the boundary between the two countries, while the auxiliary falls is completely situated on the Vietnamese territory. Sprawling a 300 metre width, Ban Gioc waterfall is the widest cascade in Vietnam.
The main falls includes three layers with water powerfully falling non-stop from a height of 30 metres through rocks and limestone, hitting the cliff, making thundering effects that can be heard from far and magical clouds of vapour. Those who want to have more physical interaction with the cascade can hop on a bamboo raft (which costs no more than 2 US dollars I believe) to venture around its bottom. It would be unforgettable touching the cool water or enjoying natural kisses of trickles on the face or hair, but for me, enjoying the falls from far was such a worthwhile!
Surrounding the cataract bears such picturesque scenery of green mountains and stunning paddy fields, spotted with little houses, a path threading through the rice fields and a wooden bridge over creeks. The beauty is just spectacularly unreal!
Ban Gioc Waterfall was genuinely powerful when I viewed it at a close distance. In contrast, it looked as silky as a girl’s long hair when I stood on top of Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda, which is 3 km away from the white water. I thought that the waterfall somehow reflected an image of a young lady, and behinds it is indeed a thrilling romance story of a Tay ethnic woman who was the most beautiful in Ban Gioc.
Legend has it that the young woman and her lover together fell in an eternal sleep at Ban Gioc after fleeing from a King whom she was given to. It rained heavily a week after. However, strangely, since the rain was over, flowing down to the village were two waterfalls with pure water. Since then, the waterfall was named Ban Gioc to commemorate the prettiest girl in the village and her faithful love.
The falls somehow reminded me of Da River in a work written by Nguyen Tuan, one of my favourite Vietnamese authors as they are powerful and dynamic but gentle and graceful at the same time. No matter how contrasting those beauties are, they still harnomise with each other that makes a natural masterpiece. That is the reason why Ban Gioc Waterfall is proudly ranked the fourth largest border – crossing fall after Iguazu between Brazil and Argentina, Victoria between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and Niagara between Canada and the US. It is one of the 10 most spectacular waterfalls in the world too, according to Touropia travel site.