The largest caves in the world are located at Phong Nha, but doing the big ones require a lot of time, preparation and some climbing skill. So instead, we visited two of the more accessible caves in the park, one on foot and one on the water.
We reached the town of Phong Nha in the evening after a long bus ride from Hue. The bus dropped us off by the side of the road in the centre of the town, which was basically the only road the town had. After waiting a few minutes we were picked up by two people from the guesthouse riding separate scooters. Even with our two backpacks suitcases they found space for us and the bags and drove us through the town to the guesthouse at the other end.
The next day we began our tour. The first part gave us a quick tour of the forests and landscape in the area by visiting a local botanical park, complete with lush views of the surrounding jungle.
During the Vietnam War, this area was near the border between North and South Vietnam, and so it was a target of intensive American bombing. The caves were actually used as supply lines to move food, weapons and other supplies for North Vietnamese soldiers. The caves were also used as makeshift hospitals for the soldiers. This is even noted (with some political commentary) in the national park’s own website.
Once we were done there, it was off to Paradise cave, located about 25 minutes from the town in the park. The cave has been open since 2010, and most visitors only do the first 1.5 kilometers. With a special permit a small number of people can go much further, up to 7 km into the cave. We did the shorter route and spend less than 2 hours there.
We descended down a series of stairs to reach the bottom of the cave
The cave system is very wide and spacious, and has quite a few different formations.
After finishing we headed off for a bite to eat for lunch before moving on with the water cave in part 2.