Detian Waterfall (德天瀑布 [Détiān Pùbù])

Daxin County / Trung Khanh District, Guangxi / Cao Bang, China / Vietnam

About Detian Waterfall (德天瀑布 [Détiān Pùbù])


Hiking Distance: 1km round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2009-04-23
Date last visited: 2009-04-23

Waterfall Latitude: 22.85521
Waterfall Longitude: 106.72274

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The Detian Waterfall (德天瀑布 [Détiān Pùbù]; Virtuous Heaven Waterfall) was said to be the largest transnational waterfall in Asia.

The waterfall is shared by both China and Vietnam.

Detian_015_04222009 - The Detian Waterfall seen from the China side
The Detian Waterfall seen from the China side

Surrounded by picturesque karst peaks (more famously present in places like Guilin (China), Phang-nga Bay (Thailand), and Halong Bay (Vietnam), this was definitely one of the more scenic waterfalls.

Heck, we could even argue it was one of the most scenic waterfalls in the country.

In addition, the Detian Waterfall 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.

Detian_035_04222009 - Looking towards the Ban Gioc Waterfall (which was on the Vietnam side) as seen from the China side
Looking towards the Ban Gioc Waterfall (which was on the Vietnam side) as seen from the China side

Then, there was the Ban Gioc Waterfall (Banyue Waterfall in Chinese) on the Vietnamese side of the river.

Julie and I had no trouble seeing both falls from the Chinese side.

However, 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.

Detian_123_04232009 - Full context of the Detian Waterfall as seen from an elevated lookout on the China side
Full context of the Detian Waterfall as seen from an elevated lookout on the China side

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 falsely proclaimed in the literature.

As far as the largest transnational waterfalls in the world are concerned, we know that Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, and Niagara Falls all surpassed the Detian Waterfall in size.

Experiencing the Detian 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.

Detian_054_04222009 - Getting closer to the bottom of the Detian Waterfall
Getting closer to the bottom of the Detian Waterfall

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.

Detian_090_04232009 - Looking down over the brink of one of the lower drops of the Detian Waterfall towards the Guichun River
Looking down over the brink of one of the lower drops of the Detian Waterfall towards the Guichun River

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.

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.

These steps were quite slippery when wet thanks to the combination of humidity and sporadic showers.

However, 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.

Detian_096_04232009 - Looking past this border pillar towards a tented market by the Detian Waterfall
Looking past this border pillar towards a tented market by the Detian Waterfall

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.

Waterflow and Crowd Conditions for the Detian Waterfall

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.

That said, this waterfall was still flowing fairly well, which strongly suggested that it was a permanent year-round waterfall.

I can envision how much better it would have been in late Summer through Autumn when the Detial Waterfall would be its magnificent earth shattering self.

Detian_278_04232009 - Zoomed in look down at the Detian Waterfall with boats provide a sense of scale even despite the low waterflow during our late April visit
Zoomed in look down at the Detian Waterfall with boats provide a sense of scale even despite the low waterflow during our late April visit

Plus, the relative (and I do mean relative since we’re talking about China) quiet of this place made this a very pleasant getaway from teh chaos of the country’s cities.

Indeed, the humid rainforest flanked by terraces, old fashioned rafts, and jaw-dropping gorges helped us to momentarily forget the crush of over a billion people, which can be a bit overwhelming.

Lingering at the Detian Waterfall

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.

Detian_008_04222009 - This was the view of the Detian Waterfall and neighboring terraces from our room at the hotel nearby
This was the view of the Detian Waterfall and neighboring terraces from our room at the hotel nearby

The only bad thing about our accommodation was that there were no mosquito nets around the bed.

Therefore, we were a little exposed to the 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 Detian Waterfall 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.

Authorities

The Detian Waterfall resides in the Daxin County near Nanning of the Guangxi Province, China. To my knowledge, I have not found a reliable official government authority administering this area (that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist). Therefore, I can’t recommend a particular website belonging to said authority for the latest conditions or other inquiries.

Daxin_012_04222009 - Passing through Daxin en route to Detian Waterfall
Shatundie_078_04222009 - On the way to Detian Waterfall from Daxin, we passed by the Shatundie Waterfall
Detian_003_04222009 - This was the view of the Detian Waterfall, the Ban Gioc Waterfall, and neighboring terraces from the hotel room we stayed at
Detian_010_04222009 - If there's any doubt about how you write out the Detian Waterfall in simplified Chinese, this sign leaves no doubt
Detian_027_04222009 - The Detian Waterfall in long exposure backed by karst mountains
Detian_031_04222009 - Julie and our guide approaching the Detian Waterfall
Detian_034_04222009 - Looking right across the river towards the Ban Gioc Waterfall on the Vietnam side
Detian_044_04222009 - Almost right up to the Detian Waterfall with some rafters drifting at its bottom
Detian_068_04222009 - Looking right up at one of the segmented tiers of the Detian Waterfall
Detian_071_04222009 - Mossy profile view of a section of the Detian Waterfall in low flow
Detian_076_04222009 - Another closeup look across the Detian Waterfall towards the Vietnam side
Detian_093_04232009 - A small shrine we saw on the way to the 53rd border marker neaer the Detian Waterfall
Detian_095_04232009 - One of the border tablets we saw upstream from the Detian Waterfall
Detian_098_04232009 - Looking back towards the Vietnam side at the labeled pillar near the tented market
Detian_280_04232009 - The slippery but developed stairs and trail leading to the upper overlook of the Detian Waterfall
Detian_101_04232009 - The Detian Waterfall seen from the upper lookout deck
Detian_105_04232009 - Another look at the Detian Waterfall in context with some ghostly karst mountains in the background
Detian_116_04232009 - More contextual look at the Detian Waterfall from the upper lookout deck
Detian_130_04232009 - Focused zoomed in shot of the Detian Waterfall on the China side with a lone boat for scale
Detian_132_04232009 - Portrait context of the Detian Waterfall backed by some steamy scenery making the karstic mountains look ghostly
Detian_180_04232009 - Contextual look back at the Detian and Ban Gioc Waterfalls as seen from our hotel room just as it was starting to get dark
Detian_186_04232009 - Steamy look at the Detian Waterfall the following morning
Detian_191_04232009 - Another steamy early morning view of the Detian Waterfall
Detian_215_04232009 - Contextual look at both the Detian Waterfall and the Ban Gioc Waterfall as seen on the following steamy morning
Detian_258_04232009 - Moody top-down view of the Ban Gioc Waterfall as seen from the upper overlook
Detian_260_04232009 - Top down view of the Detian Waterfall from the upper overlook at the morning steam was starting to lift
Daxin_020_04232009 - This roadside cascade was seen on our way back to Daxin then Nanning from the Detian Waterfall

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To get to the Detian Waterfall, the nearest hub is in Nanning, capital city of Guangxi Province.

The nearest major town on the way to the falls is Daxin (the Big New?).

Daxin_006_04222009 - Passing through the town of Daxin on the way to the Detian Waterfall
Passing through the town of Daxin on the way to the Detian Waterfall

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 at 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.

Daxin_009_04222009 - Some of the scenery seen on the long drive between Nanning and the Detian Waterfall
Some of the scenery seen on the long drive between Nanning and the Detian Waterfall

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.

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

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Tagged with: daxin, guichin river, guangxi, vietnam, china, waterfall, ban gioc, transnational, border



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

From Vietnam Side June 27, 2012 7:46 am by Elsebe Vetten - 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, as you can only see the Ban Gioc Falls. We were there in October, and the river was quite full. Visitors can take flat boats from either the Vietnam… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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