We had our first overnight bus trip from Hanoi to Phong Nha. We left Hanoi about 7:30 pm and arrived in Phong Nha 11 hours later. Chip was awake enough to inform us in the morning that the bus was 2 hours late because we were stopped by government workers who unloaded and searched the bus- the rest of us slept through it!
Phong Nha is home to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. It is home to an extensive cave network, including the largest cave in the world that had only been discovered recently. We arrived to our hotel, ate breakfast, and headed out on motorbikes to see some caves!
The jungle was gorgeous. Vietnam keeps surprising us with how fabulous it is!
We visited Paradise Cave. It was about $10 per person to see, and we hiked about 30 minutes to the cave entrance. This cave was discovered in 2015 by British Cave Explorers, and there are 31 km of continuous caves. Conveniently, they have extensive walkways through the parts that were accessible.
Thiê Đu’ò’ng Cave (Paradise Cave)- Fun Fact: we visited this cave on our 200th day of international travel!
Chip’s fun facts: it took them 5 years to survey the cave, it is the longest cave in Phong Nha national park, and they discovered a new species of scorpion there in 2008!
We hit the end of the rainy season in Vietnam, which has been great because there aren’t many tourists, but that means we have had some wet weather. Phong Nha was pretty damp. We lucked out on the day we went to Paradise Cave and it only rained on us right as we were pulling into town. The next day, it was raining all morning, so we relaxing and had 1 (or 5) egg coffees. Egg coffee is a drink native to Hanoi, and it is a dessert coffee. Think: liquid tiramisu. Egg yolks are whipped with sweet and condensed milk until they reach an almost custard consistency. They are poured on top of the coffee, and some places top it with whipped cream, or whipped egg whites. Mix it all together and drink- it’s delicious!
After we were buzzed on coffee, we decided to try to see another cave. We walked down the road to the ticket office for Phong Nha cave and bought boat and cave tickets. We ended up finding a tour group and joined their dragon boat (it saved us a few dong! Dong=Vietnamese currency. Cue all inappropriate jokes). Thankfully, our dragon boat was covered and we motored up the river for about 25 minutes. To our surprise, the boat entered the cave and our boat captain removed the roof of the boat. We were then rowed into the cave!
There was a point where we got off of the dragon boat and were able to walk around one of the grotto’s. We weren’t sure what to expect with Phong Nha cave, and I’m so glad we decided to go! I enjoyed it more than Paradise Cave, and we had the whole place to ourselves.
Once we were back in town, we ate an early dinner at ‘Thang Nhung- The Best Spit Roast Pork & Noodle Shop in the World (probably).’ That was the entire name of the restaurant…and it was great!
PS. Chip, Jeff and Marie have become obsessed with becoming ‘Google Local Guides’ by leaving reviews on Google of hotels, places and restaurants we visit. I am convinced that they have single handedly increased the reviews in Vietnam by 100%. I hope everyone finds them useful!!!!
PPS. Here are some bonus scooter shots just for fun!