Sunday, June 10, 2018


This weekend, Yen and I went with my coworker Richard and his wife Xiaohua to the Detian waterfalls along the Chinese the border with Vietnam. Detian is advertised as the "3rd largest transnational border waterfall in the world" and despite that advertising, it is actually a very cool place.

To get there usually requires a bus ride across town to Langdong terminal, then a bus ride back across town before heading west, meaning 2 hours after we leave our front door we would be right back there. So we decided to hire a driver. At 500 rmb a day (100Cad/84,000krw/4200php) plus tolls and gas it was only a couple hundred more per couple than taking the bus. Plus we had a car, and not a bus full of Chinese tourists. It also meant that we had a lot more time at the falls than we would get if we took the bus.

We left at 645am and were at the entrance to the falls my 10am. The entrance is 10km from the falls but they offer a shuttle bus for a mere 45rmb (roll eyes) or you can walk. Given it was a great day, we decided to walk it. The locals thought we were nuts, but it was actually a very pleasant walk, which got very cool as you approached the Guichun river and realize that you are looking across it in to Vietnam.

northern Vietnam

a customs point

The border seemed very porous, and people on the Vietnamese side were clearly loading up small boats to take concrete across the river as we were walking by. It is always strange to me, a border is just a line in the sand, and yet on the Vietnamese side it is dirt road and shacks, and on the Chinese side it is paved roads and walkways.

After the walk we entered the main tourist area, and decided to stop for lunch. We went for "Vietnamese" food (Chinese food written in Chinese AND Vietnamese) and then headed in to the falls. The area around the falls is another 6-7 kms.

Tourist area

The area around the falls is spectacular. The falls themselves are beautiful, and well worth the effort it takes to get there. The larger part of the falls fall on the Chinese side and so, much like Niagara falls, seeing them from the north is considered the better way to go. However, unlike Niagara, it is not an easy border to cross, and so we opted to stay in the north. Anyway, pictures are worth more than words so:


left is in Vietnam, right is (mostly) in China.

Chinese side

from up top

There is some dispute between China and Vietnam over where the exact border is located (China has a border dispute, how unlike them.....). The old stone marker set between the French and the Qing has it north of the falls, whereas administratively it has been about a km south between the falls. There is also some legitimate issues with it being moved north by the French during the republican period in China. In reality the river makes the border the entire way, and neither side seems particularly interested in arguing about it. Unfortunately the stone marker was not open when we got there, so we couldn't see it.

After a few hours there we opted to head back. We were heading to Tongling to stay near the gorge and hike it the next morning.

To get there by bus, go to Langdong bus terminal in Nanning and get the direct bus to Detian (early morning, times change) or else the bus to Daxui county and then transfer. The last (only?) bus back directly to Nanning leaves the falls at 3pm, so if you are doing the buses directly there and back, you will only get about two and a half hours at the falls. Enough to shuttle in, see the falls, and leave. But if you want to hike and explore the area, better to stay near the falls. You can also do what we did and rent a car. Any tourist centre in Nanning can help arrange this for you, and if you have a group of 4-5 it isn't all that much more. You can also do what we did and combine it with Tongling gorge and somewhere else to get in as much of western Guangxi as you can. Unless you are on a real shoestring budget, or are travelling solo, I'd get the car.

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