At the borderline with Vietnam: Detian Transnational Waterfalls escapade

2011-07-22China travel Guide

This is a time when all Chinese people go travelling, come back home to see their beloved family and friends or just relax at home. Chinese national holidays are spread all year long at some specific festivals in order to allow people to “hui jia kan kan” (回家看看, literally “come back home and see”) and take a break. During the last Qingming Festival (清明节, qing ming Jie) falling on April 5th, one of my French friends and I living in Guilin decided to take the chance to spend these 3 days off to travel in the Guangxi Zhuang  Autonomous Region. Place I dreamt off since the last time I was in China but that I never had the time to go for one reason or so, I finally had the chance to go to one of the most magic and beautiful scenic spot of Southern China: Detian Waterfalls (德天瀑布).

What? I never heard about that place before. What’s this destination? Detian Waterfalls is in many regards a destination that is not that much popular or known by international tourists to China. Why? I don’t know the exact reason but after visiting this place, I suppose that the reason lies in the fact that the way to that spot is a little bit difficult in terms of transportation. A real pity or would I say maybe a real luck: this is good not to see big and numerous buses of tourists in such a marvelous natural scenic area! Detian waterfalls scenic area is located at the frontier with Vietnam, in Southwest Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Southern China. To reach this dream, we decided to travel the way we definitely love: backpacking with a single Lonely Planet guide. Although there is a slightly different way to reach Detian, here is the one that we took on that weekend, leaving on Friday night by the last overnight train from Guilin to Nanning (capital of Guangxi):

- Train Guilin(桂林)-Nanning(南宁): 5 hours, 127 RMB/person (hard sleepers)
- Bus Nanning(南宁)-Daxin(大新): 4 hours, 40 RMB/person
- Mini-bus Daxin(大新)-Shuolong(硕龙): 45 min, 30 RMB/2 persons
- Tuk-tuk (three-wheeler) Shuolong(硕龙)-Detian(德天): 30 min, 30 RMB/2 persons

In high season, direct buses (Nanning-Detian, 南宁-德天) leave everyday from Langdong Bus Station (琅东汽车站) of Nanning. Unfortunately enough, as we bought our tickets once arrived in Nanning (in a national holiday weekend on top of that), no more tickets were available so we had to find another way to arrive at destination. From that time on, our way to Detian started to be more complicated than planned but so good as for experience and learning about the Chinese way of travelling! We resolved to take then the Nanning-Daxin bus which (was supposed to) last(s) 3 hours. Lucky (feel the irony here), we got the worst bus of all the station, ending the trip to Daxin after a 5-hours drive and a bus almost dead, leaning on one side: something I would say scary if we consider the zig zag road to Daxin! Anyways, we finally reached Daxin around 4 p.m. and directed ourselves to the next aim: find the mini-bus to Shuolong, a small village on the way to Detian. Strangely enough again, the mini-bus was indicated nowhere when we arrived in Daxin Bus Station (really, really small city). For single indications we got our Lonely Planet telling: “Once arrived in Daxin Bus Station, turn on your left, walk for around 10 to 15 minutes. At one moment, on your right is Lunli Road (伦理路). Here are the mini-buses for Shuolong leaving. The last one leaves at 5 p.m.!”. That was the best part of our trip! Without anything better than this, we followed the guide’s indication and strangely (or I should say normally right!?): everything was right! The guy who wrote that small sentence should have lived the exact same thing we were living. This was so cool! Thank you so much Lonely Planet, you saved us! Of course, there was an easier way to reach Detian: a direct bus Daxin-Detian, that we heard about once arrived in Detian actually! For those interested, here are the schedules, for both ways: 7:20 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Arrived in Detian after taking a tuk-tuk in Shuolong, we were tired but so happy to have finally reached our destination! I can say that we did the most difficult way to Detian, but we learnt a lot. Now I can tell that even in the middle of nowhere you can make your way in China! (but you must speak Chinese of course! Don’t do that otherwise, please!). Arrived in Detian Village, maybe the smallest village I’ve ever seen, we easily found a guesthouse where we rent a room for 2 nights, with some restaurants around (typical Chinese food, do not expect any type of western food down there!).

After a good sleep, we started the Detian scenic area’s visit in the morning. The access to the scenic spot isn’t free (60 RMB) so those planning to visit the place should better start a visit in the morning for enjoying all parts of the area. Detian waterfalls are transnational with Vietnam, most on the formation being on the Chinese side. Located in Southern China, the area is typically karstic like the hills that can be seen around Guilin city. Detian cascade drops only 40m but the view is impressive enough to make travelers marvel at its beauty. By the time we visited the place, the waterfalls were full of water for it was still raining a lot in the region. But the months between May and September are recognized as the best for the level of water is said to be higher. By arriving to the site, the view in front of us was just grandiose, keeping us speechless. Here we were, small French girls in front of one of the greatest natural scenic spots of China, for me one of the most fabulous one.

Having the whole day to visit every corner of the scenic spot, we could hike everywhere taking photo shots and experiencing some activities such as a short journey riding a horse near to the cascade or riding a bamboo raft to the bottom of the waterfalls and feel the fresh breeze of the cascade. Hiking on the back of the waterfalls, we discovered a little Buddhist temple where some incense sticks and candles were burning. The atmosphere coming from that place was magic. Together with the big sound of the waterfall, we felt like in a holy world where natural elements are governing every single beings.

Place of great interests for Chinese travelers, when hiking to the back of the waterfall is a Vietnamese market where finding all sorts of Vietnamese goods starting with food like coffee, candies, and other specialties as well as souvenirs (necklace, mirrors, etc…). To make it simple: I’d like to call it a local duty free area! ? The market is located near to the historic 53rd boundary marker between China and Vietnam: an old rock where Chinese characters show the exact frontier between the two countries. When hiking there, try to be careful not to cross the frontier although I felt it pretty hard to find yourself in Vietnam without noticing.

Back to the bottom of the waterfall, we tried some bamboo raft to approach the cascade closer and have a nice relaxing moment. For 10 RMB, the ride can take you for a 15 minutes journey. The experience is worth doing and the memories I kept from it everlasting. There sitting on the raft, I could realize once again how China is such a beautiful country and why I am so deep in love with the country and tourism in general.

By the end of the afternoon, we finally climbed to the Sightseeing Pavilion that is standing on one side of the scenic spot. From there we could have the greatest overview of Detain Waterfalls and the first mountains of Vietnam on the background. Although visited under a little rainy weather with many clouds “clogging up” the view we were still impressed by the scenery. Detian Waterfalls is for me one of the top ten places do go in Guangxi Zhuang Region and Southern China in general. Not congested at all by hordes of tourists, the place is still preserved from any constructions and big tour groups with loud speakers. Although a bit far from the most important scenic spots of Guangxi, Detian can be a good place to stop by if planning to travel from China to Vietnam and other South-East Asia countries. I’m happy that such kind of places still exists in the world. Love you China!


--- By Sophie (Visit Our China)



The waterfalls look beautiful, I will visit it someday.


That's definitely a good decison Janneken! Detian Waterfalls are ranked second on China's 6 Most Beautiful Waterfalls, the first one being the Tsangpo Badung Waterfalls formed by the Yarlung Tsangpo River (upper reaches of the Changjiang / commonly called the "Yangtze River") in Tibet. Keep on following us to discover other scenic spots off the (usual) beaten tracks!