A motorbike trip through Vietnam is almost a backpacker’s right of passage. My husband and I have been traveling Southeast Asia for nearly four months and we knew, without a doubt, riding Vietnam was a must. Like many travelers, we had only planned on the stereotypical Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi route, but after some extensive research, we decided to spend a chunk of our time in northern Vietnam, and expand our ride beyond the Ha Giang loop and Sa Pa.
One of our favorite stops on this northern Vietnam motorbike tour was the lesser known, Cao Bang Providence. Cao Bang is a bit of a hike from Hanoi, so we wanted to encourage you with five fabulous reasons to visit Cao Bang.
#1 Ban Gioc Waterfall
Things to do at the Waterfall
- Kayak in the natural pool – 50,000-dong
- Take a bamboo raft to the base of the falls – 100,000-dong
- Watch water buffalo enjoy their natural habitat
- Grab a snack and shop the markets
- Motorbike Parking = 10,000-dong
- Bus Ticket = 80,000-dong (one way)
- Entrance Fee = 40,000-dong
Snag a view from above! When looking at the main part of the waterfall, there is a small temple and some caution tape to the left. Curious, we walked past the caution tape and found what appeared to be a retired path, massively overgrown. We followed the path approximately 15 minutes and reach the second tier of the falls. This allowed us to experience the full spectrum of the waterfall. Be warned: this is not an easy hike, it is slippery, steep, and I’m not totally certain it’s allowed. However, if you are willing to risk the walk, this adrenaline-pumping path really made our visit worth it.
Best View of Ban Gioc Waterfall
Check out the pagoda across the street: Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda. Admission is free and there is a stunning view of the falls from the top.
#2 Nguon Ngao Cave (Tiger Cave)
- Motorbike Parking = 10,000-dong
- Admission = 45,000-dong
When the cave opens to its largest chamber, hop off the path and work your way around the extremely large stalagmite. On the other side, you will find the sign for the “Lotus Flower” – climb down and explore a little, just be careful!
#3 Mr. Kim’s Homestay
If you have never stayed in a homestay, this is a “must do” in Vietnam. Crashing at a homestay is unlike any typical hotel stay; it means you will get to experience the local Vietnamese culture, first hand. We had such a wonderful time sitting with Mr. Kim, gawking over the scenery, and enjoying delicious meals. We even shared a few toasts of rice wine with our host!
Although it’s only 7-km out of town, driving to Mr. Kim’s homestay actually cuts about an hour off the drive to the Ban Gioc Waterfall and Tiger Cave. I recommend staying here the night you visit the falls.
Visit Mr. Kim’s Booking.com page for more details and availability.
- One Night Private Room = $11*
- *Prices are based on season, day, and availability. This is what we paid in May 2018.
- Optional Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. Breakfast was 50-dong and dinner was 100-dong, per person. Highly recommend eating here, the meals were delicious and there is virtually nothing else in the immediate area.
There are a few kids in the family, bring along a game or some candy to share with them. We enjoyed a fun evening playing shuttlecock (a popular Vietnamese game) with the kids. They were happy to practice their English and we were delighted to have more time with the locals.
#4 Regional Street Food (duh!)
This wouldn’t be a proper Vietnam article if it didn’t mention some sort of street food. So, let me present you with two absolutely delicious street food options, found best prepared in the north.
Smoked Cao Bang Sausage
Greasy and smoked to perfection, there are street food stalls with sausages strung for miles. Be sure not to miss this specialty, the Cao Bang technique is savory and oh-so-yummy!
#5 The Diverse Scenery of the Drive
How to get to Cao Bang
Motorbikes or Scooters can be purchased in Hanoi from fellow backpackers; there are tons of Facebook groups, just search: “Vietnam Backpacker Motorbike Sales.” Or, motorbikes can be rented for approximately 300,000-dong per day. Taking a motorbike was the most enjoyable way to explore all the activities Cao Bang has to offer; it allowed us to be on our own timeline and see more of the surrounding land.
There are tour buses that depart from Hanoi and arrive in Cao Bang. Just stop in any travel agency in Hanoi and they are guaranteed to have tickets.
Once in Cao Bang, there is a city bus that leaves from the city center (near the hospital) every thirty minutes starting at 5:30 am. The bus actually passes right by Mr. Kim’s Homestay and terminates directly at the waterfall. The last bus leaves the waterfall area at 3:30 pm, so keep an eye on the clock! Cost = 80,000-dong one-way.
The only question left is, where to go from Cao Bang?!
If you are on a motorbike and want to continue exploring the north, I recommend heading to Bao Lac en route to the popular Dong Van. The scenery leaving Cao Bang is absolutely stunning, so take your time and make the drive the entertainment.