Day 5 (To Phong Na & Paradise Cave)
The tour guide to Phong na,Huang, picked us up at 6.30 a.m from canary hotel. We had mostly vietnamese as part of the tour which made things sort of difficult for us; all of them were going to paradise cave with us. On the way , we picked up a lot of foreigners who were travelling to explore Phong Na, our destination of the day.
About Phong Na
Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003, the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha is a speleologists’ heaven on earth.The Sơn Đoòng Cave, which was discovered in the 2009 survey by British and Vietnamese explorers, is considered the largest cave in the world. Even before this discovery, Phong Nha held several world cave records, including the longest underground river as well as the largest combined caverns and passageways
It was a long 5 hour journey to Phong Na National Park and it was lunch time by the time we reached. Lunch on the way was served on rotating round table; most of it was non-veg and we had a very hard time eating especially when surrounded by Vietnamese who seemed to be having a lot of fun and we had trouble even picking up a finger chip using chop sticks. While having lunch, I read up on Phong na and realized this was one place which deserved 3-4 days atleast. The Son-Doong cave is the crown jewel of the phong na and at the time of the blog, only one tour operator offered a trek through the cave and costing a mammoth 3.5K USD for the 5 day trek. I promised my self to return some day for the trek.
The entrance to Paradise Cave was located another 30 minutes bus ride away; we huddled into the bus and by mid-day, we arrived at Paradise Cave. It about half hour of trek up from the ticketing point to reach the actual entrance.
Surrounded by forested karst peaks, this remarkable cave system extends for 31km, though most people get to visit the first kilometre only. The scale is breathtaking, as wooden staircases descend into a cathedral-like space with colossal stalagmites and glimmering stalactites. Get here early to beat the crowds, as during peak times (early afternoon) tour guides shepherd groups using megaphones. Paradise Cave is about 14km southwest of Son Trach. Electric buggies (per person one way/return 15,000/25,000d) ferry visitors from the car park to the entrance.
Our guide have us only an hour to explore the cave but quite frankly one can spend an entire day soaking in the breathtaking beauty. The vibrant colored cave structures which took millions of years to form, its truly awe inspiring.
We were out by 1 p.m or so; our guide was a bit unhappy with our ‘late exit’ ; thankfully the other members of the group while out early were much slower to walk down and we weren’t weakest link. The only thing left now was to rewind through all the happy memories while stuck in the bus for another 4 hours or so. We were dropped off at a convenient point in Hue and took us another hour to reach canary hotel.
Dinner was pending though. A google search that “nook’s cafe” was rated very highly by tourists. It was half hour walk away from canary hotel but we didn’t mind that, Hue really comes alive in the evenings.
Nook’s cafe is a fairly expensive place ; we ordered the tofu noodles (dry) , veg noodle soup and a veg roll. The highlight of the meal was karthik finding egg in his tofu noodles; as a pure vegetarian that was a major put off for him. But not wanting to waste food, we continued eating and managed to complete the meal with some difficulty.
Another half hour back to the hotel and we called it a day