Without doubt, Nguom Ngao Cave and Ban Gioc Waterfalls are two must-see natural wonders in the northern province of Cao Bang. As these two natural wonders are on the same route, it is convenient to explore them both.
It’s up to you to decide in which order you visit the cave and waterfalls, however many people prefer viewing the waterfalls first as this site is farther away and at the end of the route, while the cave is better outlined for stopping on the way back.
Ban Gioc is situated on the border with China, approximately three hours travel on 100 kilometers of winding roads before approaching the waterfalls to see their beauty and magnificence. Ban Gioc are in fact two different waterfalls. The one on the left belongs completely to Vietnam, the one on the right is much bigger and jointly owned by Vietnam and China. The Quay Son River, which divides the two countries, provides the main source of water for this bigger waterfall and serves as a foreground for viewing and close-up photographing.
To get close to the cascades each person has to pay a fee to board a raft and be taken to the best places on the river for shooting the best photos of the waterfall. The raft fee is not included in the entry ticket.
The most memorable moment is when the raft is navigated right up to the waterfalls, to the point where the cascades nearly fall on you. There, photographs should be taken as quickly as possible otherwise the spray will blur the lens of cameras.
The bigger waterfall is composed of nine tiers; the two most impressive ones are visible from down stream. It requires great effort and courage to trek upstream to view the remaining tiers and a nice lake.
The raft is then driven to the left bank of the river for Vietnamese nationals and visitors to Vietnam to step on and approach the other waterfall, which is higher but not as strong. This waterfall looks like a thin white cloth covering trees and stones.
Remember not to stay at Ban Gioc too long as Nguom Ngao, another natural wonder, is waiting for you. For some reason many travelers chose not to visit Nguom Ngao on the way back to Cao Bang Town which is unfortunate as this is an astonishing cave with stalactites of various shapes.
It takes about one hour to stroll around inside Nguom Ngao, which is located three kilometers from Ban Gioc Waterfalls. Local people discovered Nguom Ngao in 1921, but the cave was not officially opened to tourists until 2006 when paths were built to lead visitors to many corners of the cave. Along the way are stalactites of all shapes that look like boats, cactus, forests, terraced rice fields – a symbol of mountainous region of Vietnam and poles and valleys that are said to create a link between the earth and the heaven and a loving tie between men and women.
The most impressive stalactites are those that form an upside-down lotus chandelier, which is nestled a little below the path, and the corners with figures featuring fairies with flowing long hair.
The coolness as well as falling water drops and the sound of a running stream inside soothe the mind of visitors on the one-hour-long trip. Lo Quang Quyet, a tour guide with Cao Bang Tourism Company, explains the stream runs two kilometers inside the cave before flowing into the Quay Son River.
The tunnel network of Nguom Ngao is actually more than 2,140 meters long but for safety reasons only 980 meters has been opened to tourists to walk down and admire. The cave in Trung Khanh District has three entrances, namely Nguom Ngao, Nguom Lom and Ban Thuon, but only the first two are currently open.
The entry ticket for Nguom Ngao is VND15,000 per person. Tourists have to walk up and down cemented stairs and through a valley of a rice field before they reach the fairy world-like cave.