After an early 6am start, we got on our bus to Phong Na and arrived there just before lunch. We checked into our hostel – only after realising Owen had booked it for June, not May! Luckily they still had our room available so we dumped our stuff and headed straight out. We had lunch at Bamboo Cafe and a wander around the town before heading back to the hostel to chill – it really is too hot here to be out in the sun in the afternoon, the locals think you are crazy if you are! In the evening we went to Easy Tiger for dinner and drinks and played a few games of pool with some English guys that we met.
We spent our second day on a tour of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. We were in a group with an Irish couple, two danish girls and 3 Americans (Texans to be precise!) and had the loveliest Vietnamese tour guide. We started the day at the botanical gardens, where we trekked 3km through the bush to find Thac Gio Waterfall. The waterfall was amazing and the wildlife there was incredible, I’ve never seen so many butterflies in one place! We saw a couple of HUGE spiders too, but let’s just pretend that didn’t happen!
Next on the trip was Paradise Cave, which at 31km long makes it the biggest in the national park. It was discovered in 2005 so is relatively new too, and only the first kilometre is open to tourists. After paradise cave we went for lunch at a local restaurant, and all shared some amazing Vietnamese food before heading to Hang Toi, otherwise known as the dark cave. We changed in to our swimming stuff and got given life jackets and helmets with head torches. You start off by zip lining (the longest one in Vietnam) across the lake, finishing at the mouth of the cave. We then explored deep inside the cave, which has no light in it at all apart from our torches. We made our way through long winding tunnels until we came to a pool water in a sort of clay pit. We all swam and had a mud bath (which is supposed to be good for your skin!) and then made our way back out to the entrance to wash off in the fresh water.
After leaving the cave we kayaked back across the lake and spent the rest of the afternoon at this crazy water park. There’s literally no health and safety here so we were zipping across the water on zip lines and watching people hurl themselves in off this huge metal swing. There was even a high ropes course over the lake which Owen and max managed to get about half way across before falling in – it was impossible!
We headed back to the hotel and then spent the rest of the evening with the people we were on the trip with. We went for dinner at the bamboo cafe (where the rich Texas guy paid for all of us!) and chilled out at the hotel before our bus arrived. We got the sleeper bus north to Tam Coc, which was actually really fine! The bus has three rows of beds on two layers and everyone just squeezes in and tries their best to sleep while the driver swerves all over the place.
At the waterfall
Inside paradise cave
It’s tricky to swim with life jackets and helmets!
Inside the mud bath