November 18-22, 2015

Given my love for National Parks, when I heard about Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam, I knew I had to go.  Phong Nha is a breathtaking compilation of karst mountains and massive cave systems. I quickly realized that most visitors to Phong Nha only stay for a day to see the caves and then move on to their next destination. However, I was mesmerized by the scenery and knew I wanted to spend more time in this peaceful corner of Vietnam.  I spent four days exploring the park and riding on seemingly endless country roads, waving back to children yelling “hello!” from the roadside and dodging the occasional chicken or herd of cattle.  The park is also home to the world’s largest cave, Son Doong, which was discovered in 2009, but at a hefty $3,000 a head to do the 5-day tour, I opted for the more affordable and still impressive Paradise Cave.

Sunrise in Phong Nga

Entrance to Phong Nga and Son Trach

Son Trach, the village where I stayed

Noticing my camera, he struck a pose for me

Son Trach village

Distint cemeteries, resembling temples

Located at about a 40 minute scooter ride inside the National Park is Paradise Cave, discovered in 2005. I had no idea what to expect and upon entering, I was captivated by it’s beauty and enormity. Just when I thought I reached the end of the cave, I’d turn a corner and the pathway continued deeper underground.  Only capable of viewing a portion of the cave, I found it difficult to comprehend its grandiose length: 31km!  In addition to the cave’s size, the colors and formations of the stalagmites and stalactites were unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

The scenery on the way to Paradise Cave

Stairs descending into the cave

Spectacular stalagmites and stalactites

Reminds me of melting chocolate ice cream

The cave was beautiful and the scenery around it was just as enticing; I spent my days getting acquainted with a scooter by roaming around the greater National Park area and admiring the vast countryside. 

Although a steady trickle of tourists passes through, Phong Nha isn’t as well-known as other places in Vietnam, allowing Son Trach village to retain its rural authenticity.  Phong Nha is definitely a must-see before the village becomes overrun with souvenir shops and luxury hotels…and even then, well, it’s still worth a visit.

Country riding, shot on my GoPro

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