Caving in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park | Quang Binh
As if my jet leg alone was not enough to spend the nights without sleep in Ho Chi Minh City, we had to meet at the lobby of the Grand Hotel Saigon at 4:00 in the morning for our trip to Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park . We were about to travel to Quang Binh province to see all the tourist sites of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. It was not my first trip to Vietnam, but it was my first time in this part of the country.
Flying with Vietjet from Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi
It was very early, but when we arrived at Ho Chi Minh National Airport, it seemed like a rush hour. It was here that I looked for the best SIM card prepaid in Vietnam, but I was much calmer when I arrived 5 days ago. An endless queue to get through security didn’t make my life happy this morning, but when I found my seat on the plane and there were two small children sitting next to me, I could cry. I wanted to sleep! It was already difficult to fit in the seats of Vietjet, a low-passenger passenger plane in Vietnam, but the two children even managed to crawl on me to look out the window. I smiled politely and told his mother, no problem, but all I thought was letting me sleep!
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Our main goal for the next few days was to visit Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The jungle is ruling and people try to live with it. The scenery is amazing, with all its karst mountain peaks around and you feel like driving in a fairy tale. I was looking out the window and all I could think about was:
I want to visit Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park on a motorcycle trip!
unny because I actually just arrived and I was already thinking of coming back! It is not a good sign? Many years ago I traveled in Vietnam on a motorcycle, but mainly in South Vietnam. According to many guides on trips to Vietnam, the road south through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of the most incredible road trips in Vietnam.
Although a motorcycle would be the best, driving on a bus wasn’t that bad either, and besides that, visiting some of the best places to visit in Quang Bing Province, then who was I to complain about!
Things to do in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
I am not going to give you a list of the best things to do and places to visit, because I only saw a couple of them. But to explain what the National Park is about, they must understand that about 10 years ago there were very few tourists who even visited this region. No wonder, because most of the tourist places in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park have been discovered recently. Caving is the first thing to do in Quang Binh and with so many incredible caves, it is not surprising, but as I said, many of these places have only recently been discovered. While visiting the national park, I could fully understand why that is: the jungle here is extremely thick and it seems impossible to cross it.
Adventure tourism is what Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is all about. Caving is the first thing that can be done here, but you can also go hiking, boat trips, camping, homestays, climbing and many more activities in Quang Binh.
When you travel to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, make sure you at least cross the following tourist spots, as I did.
Cave of Paradise
From the parking lot it is a few steps away, they said. Luckily, we have a buggy for the first 1.5 kilometers because here in the jungle it is super hot and humid, of course. They did not say that the short walk was quite uphill to the cave entrance all the time. But once you have traveled the elevated path, you will be rewarded with one of the most incredible places to visit in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
The Cave of Paradise is simply out of this world. Walking through a small hole in the face of a mountain is hard to believe what will develop behind it. Inside there is a huge open space that is the entrance to the Cave of Paradise. As soon as you enter you have to go down a staircase that takes you to a depth of 60 meters in the cave, then the cave has an amazing length of 42 kilometers, one of the longest caves in Asia.
The walking platform is only 1.5 kilometers long, but worth it. It is a very easy walk once inside. Paradise Cave is a must see when traveling to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
Boat trip on the river Son
Find someone to organize a boat trip on the river and see the incredible karst mountains from a different perspective. There are boat trips around the Saigon Phong Nha hotel, but in the city there are many hostels and travel agencies that can organize adventure trips around the area.
Drink beers at the Easy Tiger Hostel
Although it is a fairly small city, the streets of Cuo Lac are an access point for backpackers and adventure travelers on a trip to Vietnam. There are many bars, restaurants and hostels around. At night, head to the Easy Tiger hostel that has cold beers for you and cheap western food if you are looking for a nighttime snack. But the most important thing is that they have live music every night, many travelers and many pool tables. Great backpack environment and easy to meet people! It reminded me of my old days as a budget traveler.
Curious about how I was able to travel around the world with a budget of 5 years in a row? Click here to find out everything!
Phong Nha Cave
Not just another cave, because here you can take a boat trip inside the river. We embark just before the entrance and slowly float in the huge black hole in the face of the mountain. This is where the underground river sees the light of day the first time, but we were heading in the opposite direction, further inside the cave. The ultra-cold boat trip shows you huge stalactites that hang from the roof and the most unique rock formations inside the cave. After about 20 minutes, floating gently through the cave, they threw us to the shore inside the cave and we were able to walk back admiring how incredible planet earth can be underground.
8 ladies cave
Simply put, the tiny cave was home to 8 people during the bombing of the Americans during the Vietnam War. The 8 Ladies Cave is located right next to Victory Road 20, a famous passage from the Vietnam War. Considered a very important path through the jungle for the Vietnamese in times of war, the Americans heavily bombarded this path. In total, 55,000 bombs were dropped here in a week. That’s 1 bomb every 10 seconds and that for a week!
What happened is that a huge rock broke and blocked the entrance of the cave and the 8 people were trapped inside. Through a small hole they survived for 9 days, but eventually died. The cave is now a shrine temple for those who died in the war.
Hamada Valley and Tra Ang Cave
A short walk from the 8 Ladies cave, we literally met by the side of the road and our guide told us that here is the path that leads to the Tra Ang cave. You can see it? Dazzled, everyone looked around, but no one could see the steep path that led to the jungle.
At the end of this tour we ate traditional Vietnamese food, in the jungle by the river. The boys roasted delicious meat and vegetables for us and along with some chili peppers, the tofu and the sticky rice were wrapped in cabbage leaves. Delicious!
Travel tips of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Admission to the park is free, but keep in mind that excursion prices are high. For a multi-day trip to the caves, you will easily spend more than € 100. The entrance fee for most of the caves is between € 8 and € 10, and several caves can only be accessed on a guided tour. Simply because you will never find the entrance and you need a special team.
Dong Hoi Quang Binh Province
The beach! I saw the beach right in front of me! I was sitting in the hot seat next to the driver and I really had no idea where we were going, but at some point I saw the ocean. Vietnam is only about 50 kilometers wide in Quang Binh province and, as the jungle is all around it, the beach is never really far away.
We ended up driving towards Dong Hoi, the largest city in Quang Binh. Unfortunately, I was totally exhausted and, when I arrived at Bao Ninh Beach Resort, I took a shower and took a quick nap, because 45 minutes later they were waiting for us in the conference room for a media event about places for tourists in the Quang Binh province