The dusty capital of Cao Bang province, Cao Bang town is high above sea level and has a pleasant climate. The main reason to for coming here is to go on excursions into the surrounding scenic countryside. This is the most beautiful mountain area in the northeast and is worth exploring.
While in Cao Bang town, climb the hill leading up to the War Memorial; head up the second laneway off Đ Pac Bo, go under the entrance to a primary scholld, and you’ll see the steps. There are great 360-degree views from the summit, and it’s very peaceful ( not to mention good aerobic exercise).
The bank for Foreign Investment and Development will change US dollars but it’s major exercise, undertaken by lethargic and rude staff. Try to arrive with enough cash to cover your stay.
When we visited there was no public Internet access in Cao Bang.
Places to Stay & Eat
Thanh Loan Hotel (Khach San Thanh Loan; 857026, fax 857028; 159 Pho Vuon Cam; air-con rooms US$15) is bright and clean with pleasant staff. Shame about the stuffed eagle in the lobby. All rooms are the same price, irrespective of size; the ones at the front and back are much lighter and bigger than the ones in the middle of the building. Rates include breakfast.
Huong Thom Hotel ( 855888; Đ Kim Dong; air-con rooms 180,000d), near the market, is fine too. Some of the rooms have fiver views, and rats include breakfast and TV.
Bang Giang Hotel ( 853431; air-con rooms 150,000-200,000d), near the bridge in the north of town, is an enormous state-run hotel that’s better than some. Rooms on the upper floors in the rear of the building have sweeping views overlooking the river.
Duc Trung Mini-Hotel ( 853424; rooms 180,000-200,000) is a small. Privately owned place on a quite street at the southern edge of town. Try to ignore the stuffed black bear in the lobby.
Nguyet Nga Hotel ( 856445; fan/air-con rooms 100,000/140,000d) is diagonally opposite the Bang Giang Hotel, across the bridge. It’s the best of the cheaper hotels. There are several other guesthouses in town too.
Besides the hotel restaurants, there are plenty of good food stalls near the market, and Huong Sen Restaurant is a decent com binh dan place on the riverbank. Opposite the bank, Nha Hang Thanh Truc Restaurant serves good, cheap local food; if you don’t have someone who speaks Vietnamese with you, the staff will take you into the kitchen to show you what’s on the menu and you can use the ‘point and nod’ technique. Eat early: most food places are closed by 8pm.
Getting There & Away
Cao Bang is 272km north of Hanoi, along Hwy 3. This is a sealed road, but due to the mountainous terrain, it’s a full day’s drive. There are several direct buses daily from Hanoi (10 hours) and Thai Nguyen. A daily bus to/from Lang Son takes seven hours.
You can also approach Cao bang from either Halong Bay or Mong Cai, by taking Hwy 4B, which is mostly a rough dirt road.