A journey to Tien Cave in Lao Cai offers tranquil camping surrounded by the captivating scenery of the remote northern province’s rugged and unspoiled mountainous landscape.
The journey to Tien Cave in Coc Ly Commune, Bac Ha District, follows a miniature path resembling the flow of the Chay River. The river originates at tributaries in the western Ha Giang Province and then meanders through Lao Cai and Yen Bai before merging with the Lo River in Phu Tho.
According to the Lao Cai Tourism Information and Promotion Center, Tien Cave is a natural cave that has not been developed for tourism yet. While it has been a passing sight on Bao Nhai – Coc Ly Market tours, its popularity among domestic tourists has grown steadily since early 2023.
Tien Cave offers a captivating scene reminiscent of Ha Giang’s renowned Tu San Pass, which stands as one of Southeast Asia’s most magnificent canyons. At Tien, visitors can camp in the cave and engage in various water activities on the river.
Local tour guide Dung Nguyen explains that reaching Tien Cave requires a journey to Bao Nhai Commune, followed by a boat ride upstream along the Chay River that spans nearly an hour. Along the way, visitors pass by Trung Do Temple, a national historic site over 300 years old. The temple served as a place of reverence for Vietnamese armies that have safeguarded the China border and cultivated the land of Trung Do.
The campsite, situated on a flat beach next to the stream, awaits visitors around 100 meters from the mouth of Tien Cave. Nestled between steep cliffs, the shallow and emerald-green waters evoke a sense of tranquility. This isolated spot immerses visitors in a world free from car horns, instead treating them to the symphony of the mountains: birdsong, chirping insects, and babbling streams.
Once visitors have set up their tents on the sand, a wide range of activities awaits in the stream. From stand-up paddle boarding and swimming, to indulging in refreshing stream baths, guests can escape the summer heat with the cool spring waters. The stream is teeming with fish, allowing visitors to catch their own dinner for a barbecue.
After enjoying the stream, visitors can explore Tien Cave by stand-up paddle boarding to its entrance. Within the cave’s depths are stalactites that have taken shape over centuries.
As night falls at the campsite, visitors can organize a barbecue, gather around a campfire, and marvel at the starry night sky. Engaging in activities such as wading through streams, and catching fish and shrimp during the night hours offers unique experiences not found in urban areas.
According to Dung, the ideal time to visit Tien Cave is during the summer months, from April to July.
This period offers clear and shallow spring waters, accompanied by dry and sunny weather, creating the perfect conditions for camping. From July onward, as the dry season ends, the region experiences increased rainfall, resulting in less clear waters.
Due to the absence of tourist facilities near the cave, visitors are advised to come prepared with food, drink, and appropriate clothing. It is crucial to wear a life jacket while on the boat to ensure safety and prevent accidents. Dung emphasizes the importance of preserving the landscape by cleaning up after camping and refraining from littering in the river.
For those interested in overnight camping, it is recommended to join a guided tour to ensure safety. The area is completely isolated from the outside world and there is no phone signal nor wifi.
Independent travelers can opt for a day trip to Tien Cave, then spend the night at homestays or motels in Trung Do and Bao Nhai communes. Accommodation rates range from VND200,000 to VND300,000 (approximately $8.53 to $12.79) per room, per night. Round trip boat rentals cost VND500,000 ($21.32) and can accommodate up to six guests.
Local boats can also carry tourists to explore the Chay River and Tien Cave.
Dung sums it all up:
“On summer days, Tien Cave’s refreshing water and unspoiled landscapes are a haven for nature enthusiasts.”