Sunday, Jan. 31st (Phong Nha Day 1)

  • Woke up and went down to the lobby of Easy Tiger hostel to have a big mug of Western coffee.  It was instant but couldn’t have tasted better.
  • Cory joined me shortly after for breakfast.
  • At 9am the hostel’s manager from Ireland gave his daily informative talk on what to do and expect in the area.
  • We joined up with Dries, our travel companion from Belgium who we had caught up to again, and a few other people from the hostel: Sheena from the UK, Paul from South Africa, and Drens from the Netherlands, for a loop around Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
  • First stop was the Botanical Gardens, where we spent an hour and a half on a hiking loop through the jungle and up a beautiful multi-stage waterfall (with help from a preset climbing rope).
  • Next was Paradise Cave, easily one of the top experiences of my life.  The British Cave Research Association ranked it as one of the top 3 most beautiful caves in the world.
  • We walked up the mountainside on a switch-backed path to the entrance of the cave where we dropped in on a narrow wooden staircase.
  • We continued deep into the cave on the plankwood path, past massive standing stalagmites and hanging stalactites, and some that had joined together into giant dripping support columns.
  • At every turn we thought we were close to the end, but the corner would only reveal an even more impressive cavern with ever more unique stone formations.
  • After a kilometer of walking we reached the end of the public path, though we could have continued for another 2.5 kilometres on a private tour for $100 if we had wanted.
  • We completed the rest of the loop, which took us past towering mountains and reaching rice fields, and pulled straight into Bamboo Cafe for a delicious meal of beef stew and eggy coffee (a Northern Vietnamese specialty combining coffee and whipped egg).
  • Returned to the hostel and spent the rest of the evening sipping big mugs of Tiger beer by the fire while swapping motorbike stories with the amazing community of travellers.

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