Day 13 Phong Nha National Park Cave tour

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January 14th 2015
Published: January 19th 2015
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This morning we slept in a little late and rushed to get dressed in time to have breakfast before our trip to the caves. Thank goodness Dani was a lot better and able to do the tour with us.

Delicious (I know I’m using this word a LOT, but seriously all the food here is fantastic.) breakfast of banana pancakes (as good as Cactus, Langkawi), perfectly poached eggs with baguettes, omelette and fresh fruit salad with yoghurt. Breakfast was included with our room rate but rather than being a buffet, you order off a menu.

We literally had to throw back our cuppas before joining the tour bus for the day. The bus left just before 9 and we were off driving alongside farms, rice paddies and waterways. It wasn’t long before we were turning into the National park area. We pulled over to take some pics of some rapids. The water was so clear and stunning. It was aqua in colour and pristine.

We continued on to the entrance area of Paradise Cave. We had a short walk to some buggies that drove us 1.6km to the start of the 540m walk up to the actual entrance. The walk was a bit steep but was concrete all the way with no steps. Before entering the cave we were given a talk with information about the caves here. Phong Nha has the largest dry cave in Asia. Paradise cave was only discovered in 2005 but a local man who was out hunting. Between 2006 and 2009, some British professionals came and I guess measured and confirmed the size. The section of Paradise cave that we were allowed in has been very much set up for tourists. There are stairs and boardwalks for the whole 1km walk. Talking to our guide, Viet he said that no rock or ground was moved to make the boardwalk. The boardwalk was built to impact the cave as least as possible. We were very lucky to be here at this time of the year. Yes it is cooler but Viet was telling us that this time of year there are up to about 500 visitors per day, where in summer, there can be up to 10,000 visitors per day. I found walking through the cave extremely calming and spiritual, as did Stu. It really was rather impressive with the highest section that we were in being 80 meters high. There are sections of the cave that are 120 meters high! The stalagmite and stalitite’s are so impressive in size and the shapes they have formed over millions of years. The cave isn’t cold inside; they stay between 18 and 23 degrees throughout the year. The only non-calming aspect was carrying our 14.5kg toddler up all 237 steps out of the cave. I was tired but the end of that.

We walked back down about another 200 steps to get to the buggy that took us back to our tour bus. We picked up some local snack. It has a smoky flavoured rice paper bottom with toffee and peanuts on top. Yum! They do great snacks here in Vietnam!

Back on the bus, we traveled 20mins to where we would have lunch and board the boat for the second part of our tour.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but today was the worst food we’ve had of the trip. It was a large spread of food. Ribs, chicken, fish, tofu, pork, veges, soup, rice, omelette. The food looked really good and Stu said that most of it tasted good but it was mostly cold or barely lukewarm. Zav and I mainly ate rice and veges. Stu said the fish was delish but I wasn’t eating it cold. Dani’s vegetarian food was the best brought out as it was obviously cooked fresh for her and another 2 girls that were vegetarian.

After leaving lunch we boarded a long-boat. It took us 6km up the river. We passed villages, fish farms and women using picks and wood sticks to pick up sea grass. They harvest the sea grass to feed the fish in the farms. Very interesting to watch.

Arriving at the cave the motor was tuned off the longboat and we entered the cave. There was a 15 year old girl and her dad driving the boat. The girl paddled from the front and her dad from the back. This was hard work for the pair of them, especially the 15 year old girl. We were paddled in for 1km into the cave. Once again, it was stunning to look at and constantly changing.

Some interesting facts we learnt about this cave is that at the front you can see holes in the rock where they tried to bomb the cave during the war. About 1/2km inside the cave was where a hospital was set up during the war as well. For a few days during the wet season the whole inside of this cave can fill up with water due to the amount of rain. Absolutely unbelievable when you see how big it is inside. This is the largest cave river in the world at 7km in length.

We hopped off the longboat and walked though the dry part of cave. This time we walked straight on the ground of the cave. There is a lot of river sand as it is all washed in during wet season. It is very soft and almost powdery. Once again, this was also very impressive to walk through and Stu felt he liked this cave better than Paradise Cave.

After an ice-cream and coffee sold by one of many women with their little stalls along the walk back, we hopped on the longboat back at the opening of the entrance to the cave.

The boat ride back was a little chilly as the temp had dropped a little. Took about 20mins and then we were back in the bus to take us back to the Lake House Resort. It was 5pm by the time we got back so was a great full day tour.

We had an early dinner and settled back into our room to sort cases for the morning.

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