Phong Nha, VietNam

DAY 44: 5/25
I arrived past 19:00 lastnight. I was staying at Carambola Resort a little out of town and closer to the caves. I originally booked this location so I could have a day to myself- exploring after a day of tours with a guide. I’d schedule a guided tour of Paradise and Dark cave first followed by my own exploration day of Phong Nha on Saturday.

Me sitting with joy and her boyfriend infront of me- all of us wearing bright neon orange life jackets on our tour boat.

Unfortunately it is already Saturday, my only day. My room is so big with 3 beds, AC and a fan! Today I have a tour to see just two caves. I opted to see Phong Nha because it’s the biggest cave, so of course… then I chose Paradise because apparently it is ‘the must see’. Dark cave is the adventurous one, I really wish I’d have gotten to visit this one, too. You zipline and kayak there. The ones I went to don’t require a bathing suit.
Tours arrive by boat to Phong Nha cave. Perhaps because of the boats you are prohibited from swimming. It’s too dark and the rowers maybe wouldn’t see you- I’m not sure. I met quite a group on this tour; my favorites being Joy and her boyfriend (pictured here).

Touring Phong Nha: caves

We wandered the first cave separately but became friends once the group was separated for lunch. We bonded over mini Durian. We later found out they were Lechee. Much different! We tried to take a few pictures of eachother but the lighting in the caves made it difficult. The caves were huge and cool temperatured! They were 20 degrees celcius. Natural AC in the middle of the hot summer. This was quite nice, our guide said the temperature was due to the river- it felt amazing!
The caves were full of people yet they also seemed empty at times. I cannot imagine what it would be like to discover a cave like this. I wouldn’t dare go inside one alone. While they’d make a great shelter and place to cool off, a relief for someone out in the forest, there are too many dark corners. Even with the artificial lights in the biggest one it had dark corners- I’d be afraid of all the animals I couldn’t see.
There is only access to about 1km deep. There are longer excursions available- the longest is in Son Doong cave and takes 4 days. It costs $3,000 USD. I’d like to think I’d do it but it’s all kind of creepy still. Especially if I was part of a small group. Maybe I’ll come back to explore Dark cave and wander. Some hiking too! I don’t know if I’ll ever trek the long cave, I have my doubts.

Inside Paradise Cave.
Another blue tour boat passes ours in the opposite direction on the river.

On the way back the boat passed my resort- it really was close by and I would be able to hop on a local boat to the park. I loved seeing the locals on their boats. They were fishing and also collecting seaweed. The seaweed was to feed the fish. I’m really happy with the settings on my camera too; I’m quickly adapting and taking way better photos. So although I didn’t bring my magnifying lens I’m still able to use my zoom lens for crisp images all the way zoomed.
There’s not much time left for explorong. I have to figure out how I’ll get to Phong Hoi. I have a train to Ninh Binh from there. It’s scheduled to leave at 01:00. The last bus out of Phong Nha is at 17:00, its 16:30 now; or I can hire a private car for 10 times the price. I chose to catch the bus! I even ordered some pizza at the restaurant/hostel next to the stop. It literally came out with 5 minutes to spare. I shoveled 2 pieces in my mouth and put the rest in two to-go boxes. I’ll have them once I’m at the train station.

large sign on the river with a fisherman in front- the sign reads: Phong Nha- The Adventure Capital of Asia

Tips: If you are looking to go to Phong Nha without a motorbike- there of course are ways, I would recommend giving yourself 3 FULL days to experience the caves and park. Carambola (my acommodation) offered a free shuttle van to pick me up from my bus stop which was amazing!

Because I only had one day I decided to book a tour, which is more expensive than visiting in a more local way. I’d originally planned to take the less expensive option but again- I didn’t have as much time as I’d need.

Here is where I booked:

I’d highly recommend staying at Carambola:

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