Detian Waterfall or Ban Gioc Ducthien Falls is a collective name for two waterfalls on the Quây Sơn River, that straddle the international border between China and Vietnam; more specifically located between the Karst hills of Daxin County, Guangxi, and Trùng Khánh District, Cao Bằng Province. I first visited Detian Waterfall in 2010. I visited again in April 2019. Below are the pictures I took on the more recent trip.
There is now a direct bus to Detian from Langdong bus station. It departs at 0830 and arrives at Detian visitor centre at about 1230. Tickets to the waterfall can either be bought at the visitor centre or the Langdong bus ticket counter. I strongly advise purchasing the ticket along with the bus ticket at Langdong to avoid long queues at the visitor centre.
Note that the visitor centre is some distance from the waterfall. There is a shuttle bus to bring you in. The entrance ticket you buy at the bus station includes the shuttle bus. Once you’ve boarded the shuttle bus, it’s a 10-15 min drive to the waterfall.
The ticket counter at Langdong even offers a return ticket which can be bought at a discount. The first return bus leaves at 1500. This leaves you only 2 hours to walk around. I don’t advise buying this ticket. There is another bus that leaves at 1630. You can take that one if you think you wish to spend more time exploring Detian Waterfall.
There are two main paths towards the waterfall. The lower path descends to the river bank. You can get close to the falls from this path. You can get even closer by taking a ride on one of the rafts. You need to pay extra for this. Vietnam is on the far bank. You can wave to the Vietnamese and their tourists from the raft.
The higher path is flat and leads first to cluster of eateries and then to two rows of souvenir shops. From here, following one of the streams that feeds the waterfall, you’ll arrive at the “end of the road”.
Being located at the border between two countries, one can expect some illicit cross-border activity. Unfortunately, like many once clandestine border towns, the area has now been sanitised. The open-air Vietnamese market is closed and entry is not allowed. The path (now a paved road) that used to allow you to take a few steps into Vietnam (I had Vietnamese ladies on bikes offering me rides for a good time in Vietnam) is now closed. The playful Vietnamese ladies are now nowhere in sight.
There is a tram service that takes you to the “entrance”. It costs 10 yuan, is not included in the entrance ticket and the “entrance” refers to the shuttle bus boarding area which is only a few hundred metres away. Don’t take it.
Walking along the upper path actually gives you a better panoramic view of the waterfall. You’re going to miss the views above if you take the tram which doesn’t really take you anywhere. The pictures below were taken on my first visit to Detian in 2010. Back then, the rafts were not motorised.
Being winter, the volume of water was a lot less, but being so long ago, the place was also not so well-controlled. The bus could take you all the way to the waterfall without a need to change to the shuttle bus at the visitor centre. More interestingly, the border was open!
Transport in China is very different today compared to the good old days. Progress has taken the horses out of the ancient city of Dali, the wooden fishing boats out of Erhai. High speed rail and a highway from Beijing to Urumqi has made travel on the Silk Road a lot less meaningful. In this case, Detian waterfall has been sanitised. The clandestine atmosphere is gone forever. I’m glad I had visited earlier.