The bus dropped us off in front of a hostel that was offering rooms for $12 dollars a night. We accepted and settled in. It appeared as though someone had been living in the room prior to us being there, the bathroom was filthy and someones comb and shower sponge still remained on the bathroom shelf. I wasn't happy about the state of the room but I sucked it up for one night. It would be a quick visit.
Day 95- We woke up early to start a busy day of exploring. Phong Nha is an up and coming tourism spot in Vietnam that houses a UNESCO world heritage site. They are famous for their caves and more recently hold the title for the biggest cave in the world, Son Doong, which opened to the public in 2014. Unfortunately, this is not an attraction easily made available to tourists. Only a few ballots are issued every year to see the big cave because the government is making a concerted effort to protect the cave. A tour through Son Doong takes 5 days and it will cost you $3000 USD!! Thankfully, the other caves opened to the public in 2010, and don't cost that much to explore. Since they only opened to tourists 5 years ago, it means Phong Nha is a destination that is off the beaten path for most tourists in Vietnam. Very few foreigners walked the streets in Phong Nha and it was nice not have to share this beautiful site with hundreds of other travellers. There are many guided tours that go into the caves, costing between $60-$80 Canadian each but we wanted to take it upon ourself to explore. We rented a scooter and hit the road.
Phong Nha is surrounded with lush greenery at every turn. Another Jurassic park-esk backdrop.
A beautiful place to be laid to rest.
The first cave we visited was Paradise Cave, prior to Son Doong Cave being discovered, it was the world's largest cave system running at 31km long, although only 1 km is open to tourists. An entrance fee of $15 CAD each gets you into the cave and after 500 steps and 1.6 km of walking through the jungle, we entered the cave. A chill could be felt before the entrance of the cave was even in sight and a wooden pathway led the way into the dark stone structure.
A stalactite grows large from the ceiling above.
Phil and Beckie... what made this?
The acoustics in the cave were incredible, so of course Mike saw this as an opportunity to sing the entire little mermaid theme song. Doc Tonic also made an appearance.
The view of the entrance from inside the cave.
After exploring the depths of the cave and a few more disney song eruptions, we made our way back to our scooter. Along the way I discovered a tiny little village with a small snail living among giant mushroom trees.
A last minute bathroom break before we left the cave ended in disaster when my phone fell in the toilet. The phone is no longer with us but I wasn't going to let it get me down. It's just a phone.
We got a bit lost on our way to the next cave but we didn't mind. Nature was maybe a little too distracting.
"... I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." ~Robert Frost.
The next cave we visited was the Phong Nha Cave. Visitors must take a boat to get there because the entrance to the cave is on the river. The boat costs $19 CAD and fits 14 people, on top of that, the entrance fee is $15 CAD each, so it can be a bit pricey when doing it on your own. We waited for a group of Chinese tourists to buy their boat tickets and asked if we could join them. They were kind enough to accept and we managed to pay only $2 dollars each for the boat ride. Phong Nha cave is 7.7 km long but tourists can only explore the first 1.5 km.
The entrance of the cave appeared as we turned the corner and at the perfect moment the engine cut out, engulfing us in silence.
This cave was interesting because there were little beaches all along the river. The cave was used by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war as a hospital shelter.
After rowing through the cave, we were able to get off and walk along one of the many beaches inside. Stalagmites and stalactites are displayed on every wall.
A view of the cave from outside.
We finished off the day with dinner at Bamboo Cafe, which owns the scene for great food and drink in Phong Nha. We realized at the end of our day that we didn't need anymore time in Phong Nha and we quickly booked a night bus out of there. It left at 9 pm that night, arriving at our next destination at 5 am the next morning.