After the motorbike road trip in September to Mu Cang Chai and Sapa, our travel group set off again for the new year holidays. This time our trip covered a famous route in the North of Vietnam: Bac Kan – Cao Bang – Lang Son (Cao – Bắc – Lạng). It was almost a border road trip because we drove mostly along the border between Vietnam and China. Roughly 1,000 km (620 miles) in 4 days! And each of us spent less than 1.5 million VND (USD 75) including petrol, food, drink, guest house, etc.
Day 1: Hanoi – Bac Kan, 230 km (143 miles)
We had an unlucky first day. It was drizzling the whole morning so the road was super dirty. However, we were totally aware that dirt was a certain part of a motorbike road trip so we didn’t bother too much.
We left Hanoi around 8am and arrived in Bac Kan in the afternoon. The destination was Ba Be Lake (Hồ Ba Bể), the biggest lake in Vietnam.
You can take a canoe to go around the lake and explore the small islands. The whole package will take 5 hours. We didn’t have time since it got dark very quickly in winter, thus, we cut the canoeing time real short to only 1.5 hour.
Day 2: Bac Kan – Cao Bang, 240 km (150 miles)
On the way from Ba Be Lake, we stopped for a pose on top of Wind Pass (Đèo Gió).
The route from Bac Kan to the main town of Cao Bang was about 140 km (87 miles). I have to say Cao Bang is such a small little lovely town, very peaceful, quiet and clean. We got to the town at around 12.30pm then stopped for a quick lunch, checked in and dropped our backpacks in a hotel. At 2pm we started to head to Pac Bo (Pác Bó), a tourist attraction of Cao Bang province, which was situated right on the border Vietnam – China. That was also the place where our national hero, Ho Chi Minh, spent a few years before the revolution against French army.
Pac Bo (Pác Bó) is 50 km (31 miles) away from Cao Bang main town. Entrance fee is VND 15,000 (USD 0.75). The site comprises a beautiful stream, a cave, jungle and mountains.
Day 3: Cao Bang – Lang Son, 230 km (143 miles)
Actually we spent most of our 3rd day still in Cao Bang, where we drove to another attraction site called Ban Gioc Waterfall (Thác Bản Giốc), 92 km (57 miles) away from the main town. The waterfall itself is half Vietnamese half Chinese. Once here, you will see loads of Chinese boats on the stream and zero Vietnamese boat(!) Of course I don’t need to “advertise” much about my country’s poor tourism infrastructure. Looks like it’s our generation’s job to extensively enhance it. By the way, entrance fee is VND 20,000 (USD 1).
We also visited Nguom Ngao Cave (Động Ngườm Ngao), which was about 2km (1.2 miles) away from the waterfall. This is probably one of the most beautiful caves in Vietnam and can even be compared with world’s heritage Phong Nha – Ke Bang Cave. Totally magnificent but sadly very poorly promoted and almost no infrastructure at all. Entrance fee is VND 25,000 (USD 1.25).
By the way, did I mention that the road from Cao Bang main town to Ban Gioc was horrible? Totally the worst road you can find in Vietnam for now. Hopefully they will finish building it in a year or two..
We finally left Cao Bang for Lang Son in the afternoon and spent a night in That Khe (Thất Khê), a small town 60km (37 miles) away from Lang Son main town.
Day 4: Lang Son – Hanoi, 260 km (161 miles)
On the last day, we visited Mau Son Mountain (Mẫu Sơn). This is a famous destination in Lang Son province. People said that there would even be snow here in winter sometimes. It was very cold but no snow or ice when we came. My travel mates were a bit disappointed since they were longing for a snow show. As for me, I could wholeheartedly say: “no snow for me please, I’ve got enough!”
End of day 4. We arrived at home in Hanoi at about 8 pm, just in time for me to join in a family party.
It was an awesome trip. Extremely cold and challenging but wonderful! My apology that there is no picture of the roads, but my hands were too frozen to function properly.