Exploring Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park

Caitlin Adventure, Asia, Caving, Exploration, Featured, Places, Vietnam Leave a Comment

I rode into Phong Nha one afternoon after a long 80km stint of riding on the bike. I was utterly exhausted having had to skip lunch when I couldn’t find a place that would feed me.

When I arrived at my Hostel (the Easy Tiger), the manager Seamus greeted me (we’d chatted a little online about my ride and he was expecting me), and immediately got to checking me in and seeing if I needed some water. I imagine I looked a terrible mess, but there was only one thing on my mind and Seamus quickly got the point – I needed food!

I’d arranged for just two nights in Phong Nha, thinking that would be enough time for some exploring. In the end, I nearly stayed a week! This place has so much to offer and is stunning to boot.

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The main pull of the area, and the reason why I went there, is to explore the caves. Recently, the worlds largest cave (Sơn Đoòng) was found there, and if you’ve got a spare US$3k lying around, I’m sure it’d be a great experience to see it!

For those of us without that sort of cash though, there are a few other options (including some that don’t include exploring caves), and they definitely put Phong Nha at the top of my list of places to see in Vietnam.

Paradise Cave

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If you’ve only got a day, go to Paradise Cave (and perhaps add Dark Cave to your itinerary while you’re at it).

This is literally the most impressive cave I have ever seen. It’s huge, well prepared for tourists and is breathtaking to see.

Read about my little trip to the cave here.

Dark Cave

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In theory, this sounds like a bit of an odd cave. I wasn’t completely convinced when I first heard about it. But since you can easily add it to an itinerary that takes in the Paradise Cave (they’re fairly close to each other), I figured I’d see what the fuss was all about.

If you’ve got to give this one a description, you should consider this one the “fun” cave.

Your journey starts with a zip line across to the entrance, where you then jump into the water (helmets and head torches on) as you venture deep into the cave.

As you slip and slide through the cave, you’ll notice things getting quite muddy. Until the very end, where you’ll find yourself at least waist deep in a pile of “glorious” mud! I don’t want to give everything away, but that is some mud I believe you need to see… The experience of sitting in it is completely unreal and must be done.

Fortunately, the swim back out gets you all clean again before you climb into some kayaks to head back to the main building.

Phong Nha Cave

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While the Paradise Cave is most impressive to look at, the Phong Nha Cave isn’t that far behind it, and with a pretty impressive history, I thought it was a nice one to check out.

I went into things a little more in my post on the cave which you can read here.

Tiên Sơn Cave

If you’re starting to feel all caved out, this one could be missable. Saying that, this one is still impressive to see – I just feel the others are better! Besides, with it’s location being just a short distance from the Phong Nha Cave (it’s essentially sitting above it), you may as well combine the two together.

Plan to be walking up about 400 steps to reach the entrance, but the views up make it worthwhile.

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The cave is generally seen just following a tour through the Phone Nha Cave. You need to arrange the trip in advance when you’re booking your boat ride to the caves as you will either book the one cave (Phong Nha) trip or the two cave trip.

Other Activities

Since I’ve left, I’ve been disappointed I never took the opportunity to do some of the other activities around Phong Nha.

I had a few friends head out on a cycle which took in the countryside (which I’ve seen a lot of anyway) but also ventured out to “The Pub with Cold Beer” (yes, that’s the actual name). Here, you can get a deliciously fresh chicken lunch. So fresh in fact, that you have the option of killing your own chicken before they cook it up…

Otherwise, for those more intrepid adventurers, there’s the national park tours. These must be done as a tour – but are sure to be stunning! You’ve got to do these ones with a guide to ensure you stay on a safe track. The Phong Nha area was heavily bombed during the Vietnam war, and to this day there’s still a whole lot of unexploded bombs lying around the area. I imagine paying the fees to have a guide is a better option to losing a limb… If the scenery in the national park is anything like that I saw riding around the area, it’d be a worthwhile trip!

Read More at: Vietnam Travel

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