Detian Waterfall (德天瀑布 [Détiān Pùbù])

Daxin County, Guangxi Province, China

Rating: 4     Difficulty: 1.5
Detian Waterfall

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Detian Waterfall (德天瀑布 [Détiān Pùbù]; Virtuous Heaven Waterfall) was said to be Asia's largest transnational waterfall because it was shared by both China and Vietnam. Surrounded by picturesque karst peaks (more famously present in places like Guilin in China, Phang-nga Bay in Thailand, and Halong Bay in Vietnam), this was definitely one of the more scenic waterfalls we had seen let alone one of the most scenic waterfalls in the country. In addition, the falls was conducive to taking those silky long exposure photos so it was also very photogenic to boot!

The falls consisted of two parts. There was the main waterfall (named Detian Waterfall) on the Chinese side of the Guichun River, and then there was the Ban Gioc Waterfall (Banyue Waterfall [meaning half-way across?] in Chinese) on the Vietnamese side of the river. Julie and I had no trouble seeing both falls from the Chinese side, but we were not sure about actually getting up to the Ban Gioc Waterfall since we didn't actually take a boat across the river (plus I'm not sure if there would be border implications in doing that).

As for statistics, the cumulative drop over the three tiers of the falls was said to be 60m (which might seem a bit generous). The main falls on the Chinese side was said to be 120m wide. However, if you include the Vietnamese side with the Chinese side as one giant entity, then it was said to have 200m in overall width. So if you believe these numbers, then it was said to be the largest transnational waterfall in Asia, but it was certainly not the 2nd largest transnational waterfall in the world as Julie and I had seen was falsely proclaimed in the literature (Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, and Niagara Falls were all transnational waterfalls that surpassed Detian Waterfall in size).

Ban Gioc Waterfall In terms of experiencing this waterfall, it was pretty easy to do. A walking path allowed Julie and I to get right up to the main waterfall on the Chinese side. That path ultimately climbed alongside part of the falls until we got up to the bottom of the uppermost tier. Then, the path stopped as we had to be content with taking partial profile views of the falls as well as enjoying the downstream views above the lower tiers of the Detian Waterfall.

The closer to the waterfall that we got, the less of it that we were able to see. But at least we were able to feel a little bit of the spray from the falls to help alleviate some of the discomforting stickiness brought about by the stifling heat and humidity. And regardless of where it was cooler and mistier, there was no relief from mosquitoes.

A separate path branched off the aforementioned dead-end path, which then passed by a small shrine and eventually led us to the 53rd border marker right on the China-Vietnam border. We noticed that there was a little tented market consisting of vendors selling souvenirs as well as some local produce. It was quite interesting to hear both Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese spoken simultaneously.

Full context of the Detian Waterfall from a panoramic lookout In addition to the path leading alongside the Guichun River to the 53rd border crossing with Vietnam, Julie and I also branched off the walkway and went up a series of steps (which were quite slippery when wet thanks to the combination of humidity and sporadic showers). The steps ultimately led us to an overlook that provided us with a wide open panoramic view towards the Vietnamese side of the river encompassing the entire Detian Waterfall plus the majestic and ghostly karst mountains in the background. It appeared the path kept going up but we didn't explore further so we can't say for sure what else was further up.

If there was one complaint I had about our visit, it would be that we happened to show up when Detian Waterfall was at its lowest flow of the year (late April). It was almost analogous to saying we were visiting Yosemite Falls in late August when it was either dry or barely trickling.

Closeup look down at the Detian Waterfall with boats provide a sense of scale That said, this waterfall was still flowing fairly well, which strongly suggested that it was a permanent year-round waterfall though I can envision how much better it would have been in late Summer through Autumn when the falls would be its magnificent earth shattering self. Plus, the relative (and I do mean relative since we're talking about China) quiet of this place deep in a humid rainforest flanked by terraces, old fashioned rafts, and jaw-dropping gorges made this a very pleasant getaway from the chaos of the country's cities (where the crush of over a billion people can be a bit overwhelming).

From some of the signage and relics at the Detian Waterfall, it seemed apparent to us that this place had been the site of many conflicts with the Vietnamese. I believe it was said that there was a cannon perched atop one of the cliffs overlooking the area. During our visit, that trading market at the 53rd border tablet certainly was a stark contrast to the more turbulent history of the area. In any case, we didn't feel comfortable straying too far into the other side of the border for we heard that border patrols were quite strict about entering either country illegally.

Julie and I actually spent a night at a hotel on the China side looking right at the Detian Waterfall. This allowed us to experience the falls in both the afternoon as well as the steamy early morning. It also afforded us the ability to enjoy the scenery without being in a rush. The only bad thing about our accommodation was that there were no mosquito nets around the bed, which meant that we were a little exposed to risk of contracting yellow fever or malaria, which Julie and I knew were carried by some of the mosquitoes in the area.

Anyways, perhaps one day we will return to this waterfall in a more reasonable time of year where we can see the falls in its "normal" flow. But for now, check out the photos here and take comfort in the fact that you're likely to have better photos than we did of this wonder.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Detian Waterfall and the ghostly mountains backing the misty sceneDetian Waterfall and the ghostly mountains backing the misty scene
Full contextual panorama of the Detian Waterfall backed by ghostly karst peaks as seen from a sheltered lookout perched high up a hillsideFull contextual panorama of the Detian Waterfall backed by ghostly karst peaks as seen from a sheltered lookout perched high up a hillside
On our way out of Detian Waterfall, we stopped by this roadside lookout of a sloping cascade and some pools said to reflect the heavens (which would be the case with more water than what we saw)On our way out of Detian Waterfall, we stopped by this roadside lookout of a sloping cascade and some pools said to reflect the heavens (which would be the case with more water than what we saw)
Passing through some village amongst the karst mountainsPassing through some village amongst the karst mountains

View of the mountainous scenery as we were making our way from Nanning to the Detian Waterfall via Daxin CityView of the mountainous scenery as we were making our way from Nanning to the Detian Waterfall via Daxin City

Passing through DaxinPassing through Daxin

On the way to Detian Waterfall from Daxin, we passed by the Shatundie WaterfallOn the way to Detian Waterfall from Daxin, we passed by the Shatundie Waterfall

This was the view from one of the hotel roomsThis was the view from one of the hotel rooms

View of the terraces and the Detian Waterfall from the hotel we stayed atView of the terraces and the waterfall from the hotel we stayed at

If there's any doubt about how you write out the Detian Waterfall in simplified Chinese, this sign leaves no doubtIf there's any doubt about how you write out the Detian Waterfall in simplified Chinese, this sign leaves no doubt

Julie and our guide approaching the Detian WaterfallJulie and our guide approaching the falls

Looking right across the river towards the Ban Gioc Waterfall on the Vietnam sideLooking right across the river towards the Ban Gioc Waterfall on the Vietnam side

Almost right up to the Detian WaterfallAlmost right up to the Detian Waterfall

Looking right up at one of the segmented tiers of the Detian WaterfallLooking right up at one of the segmented tiers of the waterfall

Mossy profile view of a section of the Detian Waterfall in low flowMossy profile view of a section of the falls in low flow

Another closeup look across the Detian Waterfall towards VietnamAnother closeup look across the falls towards Vietnam

Looking downstream from the Detian WaterfallLooking downstream from the falls

A small shrine we saw on the way to the 53rd border markerA small shrine we saw on the way to the 53rd border marker

One of the border tablets we saw upstream from the Detian WaterfallOne of the border tablets we saw upstream from the Detian Waterfall

A tented market near the 53rd border tabletA tented market near the 53rd border tablet

The slippery but developed stairs and trail leading to the upper overlookThe slippery but developed stairs and trail leading to the upper overlook

The Detian Waterfall seen from the upper lookout deckThe falls seen from the upper lookout deck

Steamy early morning view of the Detian WaterfallSteamy early morning view of the Detian Waterfall

Moody top-down view of the Ban Gioc Waterfall as seen from the upper overlookMoody top-down view of the Ban Gioc Waterfall as seen from the upper overlook

Top down view of the Detian WaterfallTop down view of the Detian Waterfall

This roadside cascade was seen on our way back to Daxin then Nanning from the Detian WaterfallThis roadside cascade was seen on our way back to Daxin then Nanning from the Detian Waterfall


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweep along Guichun River ending at the waterfall over terraces


Sweep of the falls from further along the walkway


Sweep of both parts of the falls from closer to the base


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

To get to this waterfall, the nearest hub is in Nanning, capital city of Guangxi Province. The nearest major town on the way here is Daxin (the Big New?).

Julie and I based ourselves in Nanning on an escorted tour, and it took us about 4 hours one-way by car to get here. But I have to caveat that with the fact that our driver went real fast and drove somewhat crazily in his haste to get us here. So it's conceivable that the drive time could be up to 5 hours in a more leisurely pace.

The drive itself was quite scenic with lots of shapely mountains surrounding the road we took (which even included the Shatundie Waterfall), but we didn't get a chance to stop and enjoy much of the scenery due to the hasty pace we were on.

Geographically speaking, Nanning was 377km (4.5 hours drive) south of Guilin. We actually went between these cities by train though I'm not sure how common that was.

Guilin was a 90-minute flight from Hong Kong, 1,531km (16 hours drive or 3 hours flight) southwest of Shanghai, and 1,976km (20 hours drive or over 3 hours flight) south of Beijing.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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From Vietnam Side 
We saw this waterfall from the Vietnam Side (Ban Gioc Waterfall)as we did not have visas to enter China . The view from Vietnam is very different, …

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