If you need a break from the city and the crazy motorbike traffic, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park offers a quiet retreat and a collection of stunning dry caves, terraced caves, stalagmites, stalactites, river caves and more. The park itself is only newly opened to visitors, meaning that tourism has not yet come to ruin the pristine environment. The two main caves accessible to tourists include, Phong Nha Cave which is accessed via boat and Paradise Cave which said to be the longest dry cave in the world.
To properly explore both you’ll need to spend a night in the area. If you’re short on time you can book an easy day trip from Hue, where after a four hour bus ride you can visit one of the two caves and then pick up the night bus to Hanoi from nearby Dong Hoi city. We choose this option with a trip to Phong Nha Cave as we were able to utilize our hop-on hop-off bus tickets without losing any of the transfers.
Once you arrive at the main park entrance for the caves you’ll pile into a small pump boat for a 30 minute ride down the Son river where you’ll pass the Son Trach village. The entrance to the cave is hard to miss as a great gaping hole in the rock appears to swallow the river hole. Once inside the engine is cut the oars are brought out for a serene passageway through the first kilometer of the cave.
You’ll have a good few hours of exploration here both on boat and the on land. Unless you’ve got an SLR photos just won’t do the place justice. Luckily, we made friends with a photographer on our bus ride in and the photos in this post are all courtesy of her.
If you are heading to Hanoi, the bus driver will drop you back in Dong Hoi do you can catch the night bus. It’s a good way to break up the long journey from Hue north, making the bus ride only 9 hours as opposed to 13. Next stop, North Vietnam!
Jen’s Overall Rating: If it’s nature you’re looking for, this place has got it. It’s also a good stop over between Hue and Hanoi as there isn’t much else in between.