We were back on Road QL3 heading east towards the rural town of Quang Uyen district (Cao Bang province). This is a spectacular route, definitely one to savor. After quickly driving through the town on Road 2L206 we found ourselves riding in an area comprised of the most magnificent scenery imaginable. This route just blew us away with it’s natural beauty. We drove slowly, just basking in the scenic warmth we felt surrounding us. The landscape featured gurgling streams, bamboo groves and jungle clad limestone hills interspersed with the occasional farm house.
Trade with China, in this peaceful area, was booming. The road had recently been upgraded to accommodate the increased traffic of large semi-trucks carrying containers filled with goods between the two borders. We continued on, passing caravans of trucks with all their dust, as we rode through this idyllic rural setting. Certainly many of the small Cao Bang Province roads are damaged by these rolling giants. It was a disturbing experience to see a caravan of 6 or 7 of these giants with their billowing cloud of dust, roaring down these small two lane country highways, around hairpin turns and then roaring up steep passes in a never ending quest to deliver their loads in this lightly populated and scenic area.
The dusty city of Trung Khanh was another crossroads border town like Tra Linh. Trung Khanh has an interesting market doused with a Wild West feel. These desolate lightly visited rural towns with their dilapidated shophouses have an alluring appeal to them which I enjoyed exploring.
Ban Gioc Waterfall
After finishing a small lunch, we continued on, riding down road TL206, eagerly anticipating the famous Ban Gioc Waterfall. The ride took us through another beautiful area along the jade colored Quay Son River, which featured an amazing landscape. After a 25km ride the spectacular falls came into view. This is considered to be one of Vietnam’s most beautiful destinations. It is a very impressive sight one of the best in all of Southeast Asia. The falls are an impressive 30 meters high and 300 meters across making it the widest waterfall in Vietnam. It is well off the beaten path, so except for weekends and public holidays you will see only a few other visitors at the falls while you are there. We were truly impressed and were reminded of our own magnificent Niagara Falls back in America.
After leaving the falls we traveled along the Quay Son River on road TL206, for several kilometers. Here the river serves as the border between Vietnam and China. Chinese characters are written on shopfronts and restaurants. You can give a friendly wave to Chinese people as close as 10 meters away on the other side of the border.
Thankfully the relationship between the two countries is currently good and of course the people also get along as well due in large part to the valuable economic trade. The war of 1979, when thousands of Chinese came pouring over the border in this location is marked by roadside shrines commemorating the many Vietnamese who died as a result.
Eventually the road veers away from the river closing the long loop back to back to Quang Uyen Here this is a corner of Vietnam that is seldom visited. The area is totally bewitching. Single track roads meander around the bases of looming limestone karsts, which cast their shadows over hamlets that lie within the lush crop fields.
We spent the night in Quang Uyen at the quaint Khach San Duy Hotel which was both comfortable and affordable where we got an excellent night’s sleep.
The next morning we took the National Highway QL3 destined for a place called Dong Khe. After 25 km of smooth road we turned right at a T junction headed for Dong Khe, a place also known as Thach An. The road joined National Highway QL4 as we proceeded south toward Lang Son. This is an excellent road as it has recently been re-laid and widened in order to accommodate the increased truck traffic, making the 90km ride to Lang Son both smooth and enjoyable.
The last few kilometers are on the northern most reaches of Highway 1, Vietnam’s infamous north-south main artery. As it is the primary entry point with China the road here is in fantastic condition.
Lang Son is prospering due to the increased trade with China. A small but friendly place it is a buzz with activity and offers travelers an excellent selection of guest houses, restaurants and a vibrant night market selling the usual market fare along with many unusual products from across the border.
We spent the night in a simple but clean guest house named Nha Nghi and dined at a pleasant rice eatery across the street named Than Lan before spending an interesting hour browsing the night market.
The next morning we arose early for breakfast and before long we were back on the road to continue our task of finishing the Northeastern Loop – Cao Bang to Lang Son.