The night train from Hanoi to Dong Hoi. Our nicest room yet. There was a 60-80yr old British tour group on our carriage who were joking about getting karaoke started and offering the Vietnamese train conductor a “cuppa tea”, it was quite funny and we ended up sharing a room with their young Vietnamese guide. He was so nice and shared his snacks with us because he “doesn’t like Western food”. We also shared this space with another Vietnamese man, who was so excited to show us his Facebook photos of his holiday in…New Zealand!
The first cave we went to was Paradise Cave. We hired two local men and their scooters to take us. They waited while we explored this cave, and then we drove the 26km back to Phong Nha village. After seeing a cave in Ha Long Bay, I wasn’t expecting much. BUT, this cave was epic! Ellard and Fred told us to go here, so thanks guys! How amazing to imagine it’s initial discovery and to walk through it was something special. Beautifully lit to highlight the details and shapes. Wish I took Geology 101 at University now…
The following day a group of us got together and hired a boat and driver to our next cave, Phong Nha Cave (accessible by water). The local village has a cyclic boat system in place so that the families who own the boats can benefit from tourism in a fair way. Each time a boat is hired, one family gets the work and money, and then the next family in line gets the next tourist group. There were lots of boats docked so while you feel bad that not everyone is making money on that day, you can feel good that they all get an equal opportunity and hopefully their turn comes around soon enough. After Paradise Cave on day 1 I wasn’t sure how Phong Nha cave would compare. This trip was definitely worth it.
Our 4 hours of tourism was over for the day. We went for a delicious lunch (spit roast pork) and then back to our hotel room to relax. We often find ourselves going out for a few hours, having lunch, then back to our hotel to chill out before heading out again in the evening. It’s definitely a nice balance and lots of the places we visit are so fun to experience at night! I still find it strange to live life on ‘feeling’…its never a case of “oh it’s 6.30pm we should have dinner” as we would think back home, we just live for when we are hungry, tired, or energetic and roll with it and make plans around that.
The next day was terrible rain, some of the caves were closed so we were lucky to get in when we did. There was another village I would have loved to explore if it wasn’t for the flooding. Quang Binh has “The Pub with Cold Beer” and many other places to stop at. Maybe this is something worth coming back to Phong Nha for!