If you’re seeking a travel experience that goes beyond the ordinary, Cao Bang is your ticket to uncovering Vietnam’s best-kept secrets. Located in the northwest region, this enchanting destination offers a tapestry of untouched beauty, cultural wonders, and hidden gems waiting to be explored. If you don’t know what to do in Cao Bang, then in this comprehensive guide, we bring you the insider’s perspective on Cao Bang. We will unveil the lesser-known gems, ensuring you make the most of your time in this mesmerizing destination.
What to do in Cao Bang?
Embracing the Local Charm at Co La Waterfall
Co Lao Waterfall left an indelible mark on my heart, offering a true taste of local life and immersing me in the mesmerizing beauty of nature. As I arrived at the waterfall, I was greeted by a tranquil oasis, surrounded by lush greenery of bamboo bushes – a signature plant of Cao Bang.
Settling down for a picnic lunch, I found myself captivated by the serene scenery. The refreshing mist from the waterfall added a touch of magic to the experience, making it all the more enchanting.
You can even have a chance to witness the locals skillfully guiding their buffalo towards the nearby lake. The scene painted a picture of harmony between humans, animals, and nature. This is what should be called an authentic travel experience.
Visit local markets
Visiting the local markets in Cao Bang provides you a unique opportunity to connect with the heart and soul of the region. Unlike commercialized local markets, you should visit Po Tau and Quang Uyen markets which retain their genuine charm.
During my own journey, I discovered the untamed authenticity of Po Tau market, nestled in Po Tau village, Trung Khanh District. It offers a remarkable opportunity for you to delve into the vibrant culture and traditions of the local people.
The vibrant energy of Po Tau Market is infectious. Colorful displays of fresh produce, traditional crafts, and regional delicacies fill the air with a sensory delight. Wandering through the market, I immersed myself in the sights, sounds, and scents of Cao Bang.
From tasting authentic local cuisine to buying unique handicrafts, Po Tau Market provided an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of the community. It was a chance to understand their customs, appreciate their craftsmanship, and share in their stories.
Note: These markets do not occur every day, but rather once every five days according to the Lunar Calendar. To ensure a visit, it’s advisable to research or seek help from travel experts in planning the right time to experience these markets.
Exploring Bong Son Ancient Village in Cao Bang
Bong Son Ancient Village, the last original village of the Tay ethnic people, left an indelible mark on my soul. Stepping foot into this enchanting village, I was immediately transported to a bygone era, captivated by its unique architecture, and breathtaking scenery.
The village exudes an air of authenticity that is difficult to find elsewhere. Unlike other villages that have embraced modernity, Bong Son proudly preserves its traditional houses, offering you a genuine glimpse into the rich heritage of the Tay people.
Immersing myself in the village, I felt a profound connection to the land and its people. The locals warmly welcomed me, sharing stories of their ancestors and their way of life. Their hospitality and genuine smiles made me feel like a part of their close-knit community.
Surrounded by expansive rice fields, Bong Son Village provides a picturesque backdrop that is best experienced during the enchanting hours of sunset. As the golden light paints the sky, the village comes alive with a magical glow.
Ban Gioc Waterfall
Ban Gioc Waterfall, a true natural wonder left me awe-inspired by its breathtaking splendor. To fully appreciate its magnificence, I discovered that timing is key. I recommend visiting between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to ensure a tranquil experience, away from the bustling tourist crowds.
Arriving at Ban Gioc Waterfall during this window allow you to immerse yourself in its grandeur without distractions. The cascading waters, framed by lush greenery, created a mesmerizing spectacle that seemed straight out of a dream.
Ban Gioc Waterfall is a testament to the raw magnificence of Cao Bang. It is a place where nature’s artistry takes center stage, captivating all who bear witness. Plan your visit wisely, and allow yourself to be enchanted by the splendor of this majestic waterfall.
Helpful tip: If you plan to explore Nguom Ngao Cave, I suggest visiting Ban Gioc Waterfall afterward.
Nguom Ngao Cave (Tiger Cave)
Nguom Ngao Cave left me awe-struck with its extraordinary karst formations and intriguing stories. Stepping into its depths, I was immersed in a world of natural wonders that surpassed my wildest imagination.
The sheer beauty of the cave’s karst formations will take your breath away. Stalactites and stalagmites, shaped by millions of years of geological processes, adorned the cave’s interior like works of art.
Beyond its stunning beauty, Nguom Ngao Cave is steeped in captivating stories. Local guides reveal the legends and folklore associated with the formations, adding a layer of enchantment to the experience.
When exploring Nguom Ngao Cave, you have two route options. The first route is easily accessible and suitable for those who prefer a more relaxed experience. It allows you to admire the cave’s wonders at your own pace.
For the more adventurous souls, there’s the “advanced path” that can only be undertaken with a local guide. This route delves deeper into the cave’s hidden chambers, offering a more immersive and thrilling adventure.
Nui Thung Mountain
Located Quoc Toan commune, Tra Linh District, Thung Mountain (locally called Angel Eye Mountain) is a masterpiece created during the geological tectonic process that took place tens of millions of years ago. Halfway up is a huge hole through the mountain, with a diameter of about 35m at its widest point. This can be considered a unique and extremely rare feature in the limestone mountain system in Vietnam in particular and in the world in general.
Standing beside the blue Nam Tra Lake, I was surprised and stunned when I first saw such a special mountain mass. In the dry season, from October to March, the valley transforms into a lush carpet of emerald-green grass. It is a sight to behold as herds of buffaloes and horses roam freely, creating a harmonious scene.
However, the valley’s allure doesn’t end with the dry season. During the rainy season, from April to August, the valley undergoes a breathtaking transformation. It transforms into a stunning, expansive lake, with crystal-clear blue waters.
Kayaking on Quay Son River
Kayaking on Quay Son River in Hang Thoang Village provided me with an extraordinary opportunity to immerse myself in the breathtaking scenery of Cao Bang. As I embarked on this waterborne adventure, I found myself captivated by the vivid blue waters and lush greenery that surrounded me.
Gently gliding along Quay Son River, I was treated to a picturesque. The crystal-clear waters reflected the vibrant hues of the sky, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere.
Kayaking on Quay Son River in Hang Thoang Village is an adventure that allows you to connect with nature in its purest form. It offers a respite from the noise of the world, allowing you to find solace in the serenity of the surroundings and witness the harmony between the blue waters and the lush greenery.
Eat Like Locals of Cao Bang
Banh cuon Cao Bang
Banh Cuon in Cao Bang mesmerized my palate with its distinct aroma, unique flavor, and savory broth. What truly sets Banh Cuon Cao Bang apart is its broth, which is often made with a combination of pork bones. These delicate rice noodle rolls, filled with a delectable mixture of ingredients like minced pork, mushrooms, and aromatic herbs, offered a delightful culinary experience. A must-try dish in Cao Bang.
Pho Chua in Cao Bang delighted my taste buds with its unique twist on traditional noodle soup. The sour soup, combined with tender roasted duck, strips of bacon, and peanuts, created a mouthwatering symphony of meaty and tangy flavors. A true culinary gem in Cao Bang.
Roasted duck in Cao Bang tantalized my taste buds with its succulent and flavorful meat. The crispy golden skin gave way to tender, juicy meat that was infused with aromatic spices. A mouthwatering culinary experience that should not be missed in Cao Bang.
Chestnuts in Cao Bang left a lasting impression with their exceptional quality. Chestnuts in Cao Bang offer a delightful taste that sets them apart from other varieties. They have a rich, nutty flavor with a subtle sweetness that is truly satisfying. When roasted, the chestnuts develop a crispy exterior while retaining their soft and creamy texture on the inside.
Helpful tip: Beware of confusing them with Chinese chestnuts, which lack the same superb taste. To ensure an authentic experience, I recommend seeking the guidance of a local and avoiding tourist spots when purchasing these delectable treats.
Festivals and events
Long Tong festival means “Going to the field”, organized annually on the 9 -11th in the first month of the year (according to Lunar Calendar), it’s usually in spring. This is the biggest and most important event of Tay’s ethnic group since Tay people want to pray for a prosperous new year with bountiful harvests and peaceful lives. Once you visit Cao Bang at that time you can have a chance to experience the vibrant festive atmosphere that can’t find in nowhere else.
Cao Bang Travel Guide
When is the ideal time to visit Cao Bang?
The ideal time to visit Cao Bang is during the months of September to November and from March to May.
In the autumn months of September to November, Cao Bang’s weather is generally pleasant with mild temperatures and less rainfall. The landscapes are adorned with vibrant foliage, creating a picturesque and colorful mix of green and golden ricefields. It is an ideal time for outdoor activities, sightseeing, and exploring the natural beauty of the region.
Similarly, from March to May, Cao Bang experiences springtime, characterized by blooming flowers and rejuvenated landscapes. It is also a great time to witness the traditional festivals and cultural events that take place during this period.
How to get to Cao Bang from Ha Noi?
Cao Bang does not have its own train station or airport due to its geographical location and population size. However, you can still reach Cao Bang from Hanoi by road transportation.
Sleeper Bus: This is a popular choice for traveling from Hanoi to Cao Bang. These buses typically depart in the evening or at night, allowing you to sleep during the journey and arrive in Cao Bang the next morning. The journey typically takes around 7-8 hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions.
Private Car: Hiring a private car or taxi is another option for traveling to Cao Bang from Hanoi. This option offers more flexibility and convenience, allowing you to make stops along the way and explore attractions at your own pace.
Motorbike: For more adventurous travelers, you can also consider riding a motorbike. This option provides a unique and immersive experience, allowing you to enjoy the scenic routes and make spontaneous detours. However, it is important to ensure you have the necessary riding skills and follow safety precautions.
How to get around Cao Bang?
Motorbike: Renting a motorbike is a popular and convenient way to get around Cao Bang. It provides flexibility, allowing you to easily navigate through the city and reach more remote areas. Motorbike rentals are available in Cao Bang city.
Bicycle: This slower-paced mode of transportation allows you to soak in the scenic landscapes and enjoy a more immersive experience. Bicycles can be rented in Cao Bang city, and there are various routes suitable for cycling.
Private Car or Tour Guide: Hiring a private car or engaging the services of a local tour guide can be a convenient option, especially if you prefer a more guided experience. A private car allows you to customize your itinerary and visit specific attractions of interest, while a local tour guide can provide insights and knowledge about the region.
How to stay safe in Cao Bang?
Mosquito Protection: As Cao Bang is a mountainous area with lush vegetation, there may be mosquitoes present, especially during certain times of the year. Bringing mosquito repellent or spray is advisable to protect yourself from mosquito bites. It’s also a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants, particularly during the evening when mosquitoes are more active.
How many days to spend in Cao Bang?
The number of days to spend in Cao Bang depends on your interests and the activities you plan to engage in. However, a suggested itinerary for Cao Bang could be around 3 days to fully explore the highlights of the province. Here’s a recommended itinerary customized by a travel expert:
Day 1: Arrival in Cao Bang, and settle into your accommodation.
Day 2: Discover Nguom Ngao Cave, and take a trip to Ban Gioc Waterfall. Have a picnic lunch at Co Lao Waterfalls and witness the daily life of local people, then visit Ban Viet Lake.
Day 3: Explore the surrounding areas or engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, or trekking. Then visit Kim Bong Ancient Village to learn about their culture and way of life.
Where to go next?
A trip to Cao Bang is often combined with Ba Be National Park. This is a lush and biodiverse area known for its scenic lakes, caves, and rich wildlife. You can take boat trips on the lake, explore cave like Hua Ma Cave, hike through the forested trails. After visiting Cao Bang, you can consider exploring Halong Bay or if you still want to explore the north mountainous, then you should check Ha Giang which is known for its stunning landscapes, including the famous Ha Giang Loop.
I think you may like this suggested 6 days itinerary to explore the Ba Be Lake – Cao Bang – Halong Bay
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