A short wet stop in Phòng Nha
Phòng Nha- Ke Bang National Park was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2003, due to its Karst mountains that were formed over 400 million years ago.
The area has many caves and underground rivers of impressive scale, hence making it an ideal spot to explore caves.
We travelled from Hanoi via a night bus, to Phòng Nha.
The pick up is scheduled to leave at 6pm and we were collected promptly at this time from our hostel to walk to the bus station.
However we stood at the bus station for an hour and a half before the bus actually arrived to leave.
The night bus was reasonably comfortable and had a toilet which was handy.
We arrived in Phòng Nha at 5am.
We stayed at Gecko hostel, and fortunately we were able to check into the hostel at 5am and get an extra couple of hours sleep without paying for an additional night or early check in.
Gecko is popular but not the largest hostel in Phòng Nha, Easy Tiger takes that tittle.
The rooms are comfortable but the showers are cold.
Breakfast is included in your room rate (though not on the day of early check in) and was actually some of the best breakfasts I have eaten.
When I went to get dressed in the morning I noticed that all of my clothes were soaked through. My bag had got absolutely drenched in the bus journey (dam you shitty bus). So the only dry clothes I had were the ones I had travelled in.
Fortunately the hostel was able to do express laundry for me so I had it back by 6pm the same day.
The main reason people come to Phòng Nha is to experience caving. There are many caves in the area 300 to be precise but the most popular are:
Tien Son Cave
Phong Nha Cave
We booked a tour to see the dark cave and paradise cave.
We were collected at 9am and our guide explained that due to the bad rain we would be doing the dark (wet) caves first then the paradise caves. Which ordinarily they do the other way round so you don’t spend the rest of the trip cold.
When you arrive you must fill in a form essentially signing your lifeaway and they ask you for your weight and height.
If you are over 90kg then sadly you are notable to do the zip lining due to safety reasons. Luckily I am way under and Stephens a good liar!
You climb a tower, and launch yourself off from the top over the river. Once detached from your harness you must swim to the cave (it isn’t to far but it is cold).
Once inside you wade through the water which is at various heights sometimes you can walk while others you must swim.
It’s super muddy and there is an area where you can stop and have a bit of mud bath fun. Leading from the mud bath is also a mud slide where you essentially sit down and slide down into the water.
After the cave you kayak to where you have lunch and shower.
The showers are cold, not ideal when your freezing!
Lunch was pretty basic, standard tour lunch (if you know you know). For me there was way to much meat and fatty bits so I just had rice with sauce and salad.
This is Asia’s largest dry cave and it was discovered by a local man in 2005.
The cave extends an impressive 31 kilometres, it’s height can reach up to 72 metres, while its width is in places 150m!
The tour allows you to complete the first kilometre of cave and it as really astounding to see the vast caves unfolding in-front of you.
We headed here for some traditional Vietnamese food and a beer and it was really lovely.
The service was great with all our food arriving at the same time (unheard of in Asia). The food was also equally as good, the veg tasted fresh, meat cooked well and the spring rolls delicious. The beer was also only 10,000 Đông and served in traditional clay cups.
This is the most popular hostel in Phòng Nha, it’s really large and had a pool (for additional charge).
Personally I wouldn’t have wanted to stay in the hostel as it seemed very loud and just all about getting hammered. But it was a great place to stop by for a few drinks. There were live singers, pool tables and 2 4 1 on drinks.
Getting to Phòng Nha from Hanoi is a long overnight bus, but take some sleeping pills and you will survive.
Definitely try and check in early to your hotel or hostel if you arrive at 4/5am some of them let you.
Gecko was an ideal place to stay for what we required.
The caves were some of the best I have seen, more for the fun side of zip lining and kayaking etc rather than the actual caves themselves.
Nguyen shack was a great spot for some Vietnamese dinner and beer.
Easy tiger is good for a social drink.