When I first arrived in Hanoi, I met a guy who told you me you have to go to Phong Nha! Caves and Jurassic Park! Really? That’s sounds awesome!! I am definitely going. One of the main reasons why I love long-term travel is that I hear things on my trip about a must do and I just put it on my list and do it!
After my visit to Phong Nha, I will definitely agree my friend in Hanoi. It is a must do in Vietnam. Definitely was one of my favorites!! The motorbike ride into Phong Nha National park was spectacular. Beautiful limestone mountains with gliding curvy fun roads. I ended up staying at a wonderful pretty social hostel and made some good fun friends.
My new friends rented some bikes and we went in search of CAVES!!!
As we arrived to the entrance to buy a ticket, the employees were yelling at us to hurry. “Hurry Hurry!!!!!” “huh, what? What’s going on. What are we doing?” We really didn’t even know which cave we were at. We had just pulled up on the bikes to a sign that said cave. So we replied ,”Yes, yes!” They quickly took our money and they started giving us zip lining gear. “Oh yes, this is the zip-lining cave. I have heard about this one. This is where you zip-line across a river and into the cave. YES!” The guy quickly threw on my gear without even really double checking anything and pointed to a tower to run to. They only do tours only when they fill up to a full group and some people wait for hours for enough people to accumulate to do one of these trips. One tour had just started and we were playing catch up so it was in my best interest to run. So I started running to the tower and up the circular stairs. Floor after floor, up and up!!! It was high! When I got to the top, it was a knee jerking elevation. The guy yelled at me, “stand here!” “Where?? You mean the see-through metal grate ledge where nothing is under me?” “uh, let me think about this” There was really no time, we were in a rush, and there was no way I was going to back out so I stepped up. He then snapped me into the zip-line. I asked “do you want to double check my harness?” but without any double checking he just pushed me off the ledge and I was off. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ “I’m zip-lining!!!!!….Everyone look at me! I’m zip-lining…wooooo!” I of course, did what anybody who is thoroughly enjoying their zip-lining adventure, I started purposely spinning around and around in circles and throwing my hands up in the air. “wooooo!!!!!” It was such a rush! Then I came to the end which was across river. “ahh how do stop?!!!! Where were the safety instructions!!” There was just a giant sand pit that seem to end with the zip-lining cable going to into a wall. Then I heard a guy yelling “feet up!! feet up!!!!” “ah, here are the instructions!! Thank you for the instructions!” “okay, okay! coming in hot!” After pounding and sliding into the sand landing strip at mach speeds, I was pumped! “That was awesome!!!” “Absolutely awesome!!!” I’m glad it all happened so fast. What an adrenaline rush!!! I am spoiled now because I want only enter caves by zip-lining now.
After the zip-lining across the river, we swam to a wooden staircase entrance to the cave. Spelunking into a cave after a grand entrance like that you are totally jazzed. The whole group was still fixed on their adrenaline junky high as we continued into the cave. The cave was really cool with stalactites and and stalagmites but that wasn’t the reason you go to this cave. There’s something unique about this cave. So we waded into the “dark cave,” going deeper and darker….and then came the other element that makes this cave different. It was mud. Not sure why they didn’t call it the mud cave. I would have thought that would have been more marketable. So as we waded through the crevices of the cave, going back deeper, the mud kept getting deeper. First our ankles, then knees, then waist, then until we were at the end with a mud pool that was chest high. Most of just floated at that point. The buoyancy of the mud, made floating very easy. So we frolicked in the mud and it felt like we were in a scene from “Mr Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The ladies started taking advantage of being around this luxurious spa-like slimey brown goo and started covering their face. Facial spa mud treatment? Guess so… but the real fun came when the guide wanted us to experience the true nature of the dark cave. He ordered us to turn off the lights on your helmets. Everyone turned off the lights. Now the mud pool was segregated into two groups, the Chinese tourists and westerner tourists.” I was kind of in the middle. So as the lights went off, my adolescent self couldn’t resist but to start a “mud fight!” So I took a big handful of slimey goo and chunked it in the direction of the Chinese tourist. I quickly stepped out of the line of fire. They laughed and retaliated with handfuls of mud at my westerner friends. I heard people getting plopped in the face and mud firing at a spitfire rate at each other. The tour guide started yelling in both languages “stop!!! lights on!!!! stop! stop!” Hahahaha!!!! He might have been victim too. hahah!!! Lights went on and both sides were completely covered in mud. Everyone except me was completely covered in mud…Well, my face wasn’t completely covered in mud…. I then confessed “it was me!”
Paradise Cave – Thiên Đường Cave
This beautiful cave is nearly 20 miles long. There’s another cave in the region that is larger but it costs $3000 for a 6 day trek into the cave.