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November 2022

Lone Ban Gioc

When I visited Bản Giốc in the misty winter of 2014, we had to walk down a muddy path through the fog to get there. There was a lone restaurant in the corner of the T-junction leading to the waterfall.

The place was empty except for a lone man with a wooden raft who offered to take us closer to the waterfall.

As we sat on the raft in the cold with water spraying at us from all angles I spotted a lone fisherman at the top of the waterfall.

It was misty and ethereal.

Fast forward to the autumn of 2022 and the place has had a drastic makeover. I was not prepared!

Crowds enter through a fancy entrance after buying a ticket at a ticket booth. A paved path leads the way to the waterfalls. Across the river is China and a mountain side that overlooks the waterfall. Built on the side of the rocks was some kind of platform so that visitor's from China’s side could get a view of the waterfalls from above.

Signs saying 'No Flycam' were displayed around the site, and my uncle, who lives in Cao Bang, warned us not to fly my drone. My mum was suddenly feeling dangerous, despite saying that locals from the nearby villages (or Cao Bang, like my uncle) are really scared of getting into trouble. We joked that China might shoot down my drone mid flight.

At river level it’s difficult to see the whole beauty of these waterfalls. The best view is from above. So I risked it and flew my drone as high as I dared whilst making sure I kept to Vietnam’s side.

Here's a video of what I managed to capture:

Upon walking out of the area towards the exit, we feared that an official had spotted us and that we’d be stopped. However, it seemed that we’d gotten away with it!

Later on instagram I saw a small group of influencers who had amazing drone footage of the waterfalls but their ‘stories’ told the tale of how they were stopped, held for a couple of hours by authorities, and managed to narrowly escape a fine of $1,500 per person!

Ban Gioc has changed so much but the waterfall itself has been left to its natural beauty. Therefore, you should still go to see it!


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