The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a 4 hour drive from Hue and is a very special part of Vietnam. The core zone of the national park in Vietnam is 858 km2 (larger than Singapore) and it spills out into Laos too. It has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2003.
We woke up at 6am and joined our tour group who took us to see Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave over two days. I’ve decided to write this blog a little different and I’ve made a list of my top 8 things from our trip.
8. The different ways you can explore the caves.
There are many caves in the area but we only visited two and had two different experiences. On the first day we visited Phong Nha Cave which is unique because of its 14km long river so we saw most of the cave from a boat. Paradise cave is dry so we saw this one on foot. There are also options to swim, kayak and zipline through other caves.
7. Our hotel.
After our first day at Phong Nha Cave, we were taken to Heritage By Night Hotel for the night. My expectations weren’t high because we hadn’t been told anything but we walked in to find a double bed each and a beautiful view out the window. It also had dinner and breakfast included so we didn’t have to go out and find something. It also had wifi good enough to stream a film without it pausing once. After where we’ve been staying this was luxury!
Which brings me on to number 6; breakfast. I challenge you to find a hotel that will give you more than two eggs without you paying more and all were perfectly runny. The bread was also really fresh! I was a happy bunny.
In both the caves we visited our tour guides pointed out certain stalagmites and told us the names of them. Usually the names relate to the way they look.
4. The recent discovery.
One of the things I really loved about these caves is that they were discovered so recently so there hasn’t been a chance for humans to ruin them in any way. Mother Nature has had thousands of years to build and modify the inside of these caves and they are beautiful. It also means that they aren’t crazily crowded with other tourists like other attractions. Paradise Cave was discovered by a local who was lost in 2005 and opened to the public in 2010 and Phong Nha Cave was discovered in 2009 by a group of Vietnamese and British explorers.
3. The colours.
I think the thing that fascinated me the most was all the different colours that can be seen in the caves. These colours show how old the rock is. I could see more predictable rock colours like brown and white but there were also sections that were blue and purple and none of my pictures really give justice to how amazing the rocks were!
2. The size.
Phone Nha-Ke Bang holds a lot of records for the size of the caves. I’ve already mentioned that Phong Nha has a 14km river and 8km of this is in the cave making it the world’s longest underground river. Phong Nha also has the largest combinations of caverns and passageways. It’s up to 50m high and the water is about 10-15m deep. Paradise Cave is Asia’s longest dry cave at an impressive 31km! It also reaches up to 80m in height. The world’s largest cave is also in this national park but it deliberately isn’t very accessible to protect its natural beauty.
1. How happy Ammun was.
After spending so much time together, we’ve generally started feeling all the same emotions. For example; if a street seller is annoying one of us, the other one gets annoyed too or if one of us is hungry, the other always is too. In this case, it made me so happy to see how happy she was to see such amazing geographical formations. The geography nerd inside her has popped up a few times in the last two months and she was almost drooling all over these caves! It makes me happy to see her so happy.
Even if you’re not a geography geek like Ammun, I would still recommend this as a place to visit before tourism takes over the area too much. I nearly flipped at the few tourists that were there (in what culture is it okay to take pictures of a girl on her own whilst laughing at her?!?!) but generally everyone was very respectful of the whole national park. There is so much to see and still so much that is yet to be discovered so I would be very interested in what it’s like in a few years. That evening we got the bus back to Hue in time for a lovely riverside dinner at Ancient Town Restaurant and we were both in a very good mood after the last two days.
I’m now in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and it’s very different to the countryside we’ve just been in! If I don’t get run down by 12 motorbikes in one go then I’ll have two more blog posts in a few days!