Adventure is out there in Vietnam’s cave kingdom
“Adventure is out there!”
That quote from Disney’s “Up” has been inspiring many travelers worldwide to leave their fears and worries behind and follow wherever their adventure spirit may take them.
While the film’s Paradise Falls does not really exist (Disney was only inspired by Venezuela’s Angel Falls), there are more than enough non-fictional places around the world that the adventurous should consider.
In Vietnam, the cave kingdom that is Quang Binh Province has emerged as one of the new favorites, especially after it’s featured in Hollywood blockbuster “Kong: Skull Island” this year. Spoiler alert: It also has a cave called Paradise!
To help you prepare for your expedition, U.K. travel publisher has offered a list of very useful tips.
The province’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang is actually a massive national park. The whole park, already recognized as a heritage site, is nearly 344,000 hectares, twice the size of Greater London.
As if the sheer size could not overwhelm you, in the lush jungles lies a network of countless caves. Around 300 caves of various sizes have been discovered and there could be a lot more. Last year alone 57 caves were put on the map.
“The stunning 400-million-year-old limestone karst landscape is littered with caves and underground rivers – and every year more are being discovered, surveyed and opened to the public. At more than 5 km (3 miles) long, and comfortably able to fit a New York City block within its expanse, Son Doong Cave is the best known,” Rough Guides describes.
The travel publisher says, if you are willing to spend $3,000, take on a five-day expedition tour to Son Doong, or you can save your budget and visit Phong Nha Cave, which is only accessible by dragon boats.
Dark Cave provides you a zip line, a muddy exploration, a cold swim and a short kayak trip, while Paradise Cave is a huge dry cavern with a tiny entrance. Other caverns, such as Va and En caves, require some demanding trekking.
You can rent bicycles from local homestay services to visit the rice fields and rural villages to see how real people live and work.
According to Rough Guides, once you have a bike, you should not miss Bong Lai Valley, a place where you can get back to the true rustic atmosphere of Vietnam.
If you don’t prefer the sleeper coach to from Hanoi, which takes 10 hours, take a train to Dong Hoi Town and then a taxi or the hourly local bus to travel 50 km (31 miles) to Phong Nha.
Where to stay
It is quite easy to find a homestay in Phong Nha. But you should be prepared as those homestays (usually around $10 a night) are not luxury and locals speak little English.
Dong Hoi is where the nearest airport and train station is, but the town is not just a transport hub. It is a good choice for accommodation too. When you’re in town, don’t forget to spend some time at Nhat Le Beach.
Have other tips for fellow Wilderness Explorers? Please share them here.
By Minh Nga