One of the activities highly recommended to us was a stop off to see some of Vietnams caves located by Son Trach in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. This area of Vietnam is also home to the worlds largest cave, Hang Son Doong, where a visit will set you back a mere $3,000 for a 7 day trek. We had very high hopes for this stop!
As we journeyed here from Cat Ba, we took an overnight sleeper bus from Haiphong to Dong Hoi. Certainly not as comfortable as a sleeper train, but once you’re over the fear of rolling off a top bunk, it is reasonably comfortable, and being short for once becomes quite a major benefit. We aimed to catch a local bus to Son Trach, however after being dropped at the bus company office instead of the bus station, and struggling to find anyone who spoke english, we took a taxi to the main hostel – Easy Tiger.
Our lack of preparation unfortunately became slightly problematic once again as the hostel was full, but we did find a very reasonable room at Thanh Dat across the road, which was only very slightly more costly for a twin room. Although generally very clean, there were slightly more insects than desirable, as we did realise our window didn’t quite close properly.
With an afternoon ahead of us, we easily got hold of a scooter, and set off on our way. The more popular Phong Nha caves are very close to the town, but as we were advised although still impressive, these caves have become a little too touristy, with garish lights filling the caves, so we decided to drive out to Paradise Caves.
On reaching the entrance to the caves, there is an option to pay for a golf caddy transfer to the main cave entrance. We did deliberate this, as our legs were weary from mountain climbing, but decided in typical “backpacker style” to save our money. It turned out this was a 10-15 minute walk on flat ground, and even with the transfer there was no avoiding the steep climb ahead to get into the cave!
Feeling grateful for stocking up on water at the bottom of the climb, we made it to the cave entrance, and immediately appreciated stepping into the cool temperatures within the cave. Just a few steps down, and the impact of the cave hits you. The size of the cave is larger than any cathedral I have visited, and it’s impossible to demonstrate the vast enormity of the cave through any photographs!
The walkway leads you deep into the cave, passing incredible rock formations, and continuing to impress the further you go. Although the cave continues another 30km, the walkway does come to an end, and the only option is to stroll back to the exit and begin the climb back down.
Sonh Trach is a small town, however after our long day of cave exploring we did find a decent evening meal at Thang Nhung which claims to be “the best pork and noodle shop in the world (probably)”.. And it was pretty good!
The large bar at Easy Tiger hostel offers happy hour beers at only 10,000 dong (30p approx!) and was a nice, chilled out spot for a few games of cards before continuing the road south through Vietnam the next morning…
Although only a quick stop on our journey, these spectacular caves were definitely worth a visit.
With kindest regards,