Are you fascinated by Vietnam's striking mountains, mysterious villages and the brocade costumes of ethnic minorities? If yes, Cao Bang is an ideal choice for your next vacation. It is not as widely popular as other Northern Vietnam's destinations such as Sapa or Ninh Binh, but spending some tranquil time in the unspoiled nature can rejuvenate you greatly. Read our Cao Bang travel guide to know what to eat, where to go, and what to do in Cao Bang.
Clothing: Check what to Pack for Northern Vietnam. Other essentials are:
Get your Vietnam Travel Insurance:
Since Cao Bang is a remote area in Vietnam, travel safer with a reliable brand of travel insurance
Most people go from Hanoi to Cao Bang City - the capital of Cao Bang Province (read our detailed guide). To travel this 300-km distance, here are some suggestions:
Starting your journey from Hanoi’s My Dinh Bus Station is the simplest way. Since buses to Cao Bang City depart almost every hour, you can easily pick a ride that suits your schedule. Remember that you should only buy tickets from the stalls, do not follow any vendor or driver inviting you to jump on a random bus.
Departure: My Dinh Bus Station, Giap Bat Bus Station, Luong Yen Bus Station
Destination: Cao Bang Bus Station
Price: VND 170,000 - 200,000
Duration: 7-9 hours
You can ask your hotel receptionist in Hanoi to rent a car or book a taxi for you to avoid scams.
Price: VND 3,400,000 - 4,500,000
Duration: 7 hours
It is quite common to see cattle walking on the road through the car's window
Since Cao Bang stands on the high plateau, your way there will be occupied by winding roads and several passes. Even locals consider riding from Hanoi to Cao Bang as a daunting task, so you should think thoroughly before deciding to travel by a motorbike.
Bike rental price: VND 150,000 - 300,000/day/bike
As Cao Bang is yet to be a tourist attraction, 5-star hotels with luxury restaurants are out of the question. In compensation, there are cozy homestays with affordable prices and small hotels with modern amenities.
See our top suggestions and reviews for Where to Stay in Cao Bang
Quang Thuan Homestay (Check price and availability)
Jeanne Hotel (Check price and availability)
Luong Son Homestay Ecolodge (Check price and availability)
As Cao Bang appears to be off the beaten path, you may have uncertainties about what to do in Cao Bang. Note down on your Cao Bang travel guide with these appealing experiences you should try.
Gifted with a cool climate and rich nature, Cao Bang never ceases to awe visitors with its distinctive delicacies. Some names may sound incredibly strange but traveling is to discover new things, why should you hesitate to give them a try?
Banh Ap Chao is such a popular snack in Cao Bang that people call it “the soul” of this land. You can easily come across a local vendor selling VND 5000/piece of the cake. Locals make it by combining rice flour, a bit of seasoning, and some herbs, then fry it in a giant hot pan of oil.
Stop by a street vendor in Cao Bang for crunchy Banh Ap Chao. The dish when served is eaten with mixed fish sauce
You may have heard of Beijing Roasted Duck with its strong reputation all over the world, but Cao Bang Roasted Duck is a staple of Northern Vietnam. Prepared with a secret recipe of the Tay people, the flavor of Cao Bang Roasted Duck certainly imprints on your tastebuds.
Being marinated with 7 secret spices, the roasted duck has a unique flavor
While touring Cao Bang, don't be surprised if you see people put a bamboo stick through a pig and hang it on a charcoal stove. This is a special method of Cao Bang's locals to make roasted pork to get evenly crispy skin and a mouthwatering smoked aroma.
Roasted pig in Cao Bang is often added with Mac Mat leaf - a type of leaf in the forest
Canarium is prevalent in Northern Vietnam, but this dish is the exclusive creation of Cao Bang people. The dish itself is not hard to make, but harvesting the pili nuts is quite tricky since people have to choose the ripened ones to bring home.
Pili Nuts Sticky Rice will impress you with its charming purple color and a mild fragrance
As a wild-growing vegetable in the rocky mountains, Da Hien not only satisfies your taste bud but also benefits kidneys and strengthens tendons. Currently, due to the increasing demands of tourists, Da Hien is now grown by villagers, so you will have no problems finding a place to enjoy this vegetable.
Da Hien is frequently stir-fried with beef or garlic
Referred to as heaven on Earth, Ban Gioc Waterfall is suggested in any Cao Bang travel guide. Once coming here, don't miss the chance to visit both the waterfall and its nearby pagoda. As for the waterfall, you can stand on bamboo rafts to come near it and feel the spray on your skin. In terms of the pagoda, ask locals where Phat Tich Truc Lam Ban Gioc Pagoda is and walk there. After climbing up its hillside, you will have a panoramic view of the striking mountains embellished with the greenery of plants.
Ban Gioc Waterfall from afar
Phat Tich Truc Lam Ban Gioc Pagoda
This Cao Bang travel guide will be an omission without mentioning the stunning caves. If you are into historic sites and stories about the Vietnam War, Pac Bo Cave is an ideal spot for your journey. In case you are an adventurous person, why not discover the mysterious Nguom Ngao!
As the haven of Viet Minh soldiers during the Vietnam War against French colonists, Pac Bo has been recognized as a national relic site. The whole area includes Pac Bo Cave, Karl Marx Mountain, Lenin Stream, Uncle Ho's Memorial House, Lung Lan Cave, Nguom Vai Cave, and Uncle Ho's stone table. Coming here, you will explore the simple lifestyle of Uncle Ho and his revolutionary activities.
The serene atmosphere and idyllic sceneries at Pac Bo Cave
Located deep inside a mountain near Ban Gioc Waterfall, Nguom Ngao has a length of 2144m with three main gates: Nguom Ngao, Nguom Lom, and Ban Thuon. Thanks to its marvelous stalactites, Nguom Ngao is among the most beautiful caves in Vietnam. Interestingly, some people even say that entering Nguom Ngao is like getting lost in the Arabian palace in the story of "1001 Nights".
In the Tay language, the cave's name means “the tiger”, or "the cave in the middle of the rock valley"
Stalactites inside Nguom Ngao Cave
On the roads to the aforementioned sights, you will see many villages of ethnic minorities, so take this chance to observe their daily life and enjoy a vibrant scene of their brocade costumes. At weekends, you may encounter people gathering and exchanging goods along the way. Those are impromptu markets where people from nearby areas trade commodities like clothes, fresh produce, and even livestock like goats or oxen. To know the schedule of these markets, asking the receptionist at your accommodation is the best way.
Bao Lac impromptu market
Bringing some gifts back home is a wonderful way to remind yourself about the incredible places you have come across. And Cao Bang, with its cultural diversity and beautiful nature, offers you many souvenirs to consider:
Whether it is boiled, roasted, laced or simmered with spring rolls, Trung Khanh Nut still retains the delicious flavor and aromatic smell
Dried Beef in Cao Bang is marinated with salt, ginger juice, and white wine, making a mesmerizing taste
Hidden in the midst of Northern Vietnam's highlands, Cao Bang is still a novel name in the world’s tourist map. Though its facilities may not be as modern as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, this mountainous province has picturesque sceneries and distinctive features that you can find nowhere else. We hope that our Cao Bang travel guide has given you the best ideas of what to do in Cao Bang and plan your unforgettable trip to Vietnam.
If you would like to share your experiences in Cao Bang, don't hesitate to comment below.
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