Waking up early is needed for this tour for the bus leaves the city at exactly 7 am. In my case, the tour guide and the bus driver came to my hotel and picked me up by 6:30 am.We drove around the city to pick up other tourists. There were 27 people on the bus, 13 foreigners and 14 local tourists.
As you we go our way out of the city center of Hue, the tour guide briefed us, which means him speaking in both Vietnamese for local tourists and English for foreigners. He told us a little history of Phong Nha, how far this home of world’s largest and most beautiful cave is, and the whole day itinerary.
After more than an hour of driving, we made a quick stop at La Vang Holy Land. This is a shrine in Hai Lang, Quang Tri Province. It is considered as an important place of pilgrimage for Catholics of Vietnam because of its history and the iconic statue of Mary near the three banyan trees.
(destination from hue to Phong Nha – Phong Nha cave tour)
It took us around 3-4 more hours to reach the Phong Nha, but the AH1 did not bore me for the scenery is beautiful. I never thought it was then part of Demilitarized Zone which received a lot of bombings and a lot of landmines still endanger locals.
It was lunchtime when we reached Phong Nha and lunch was immediately served as like they were waiting for our arrival. We were 5 people on our table, but the food that they served is good for 7-8 people.
The tour guide introduced us to a local tour guide who lives in the Phong Nha Village. He informed us that he and the bus driver will be waiting for us right outside the boat terminal.
By 1 pm, we went to the boat terminal that is close to the restaurant were we ate lunch. At the boat terminal, the group got separated into two, locals and foreigners, so the local tour guides won’t have a hard time speaking in two languages.
As we hop on the boat, the local tour guide introduced the Son River to us. He informed us that it will take around 30 minute boat ride to get to the mouth of the Phong Nha cave. Phong Nha cave has been long discovered and served a lot of purposes even during the war.
( Phong Nha cave – Phong Nha cave tour)
Before entering the cave, the boatman and his wife removed the roof of the boat which made sense afterwards. Inside the cave was chilly and we were greeted by numerous rock formations. As the “oldest” among the other popular caves in town, the management has installed a better lighting to emphasize the stalactite and stalagmite formations and they also set limit on the number of visitors not to lessen the bad effect on the cave.
We cruised around for almost an hour around the first kilometer of the cave. The remaining parts of the cave can be explored only with a professional licensed tour guide and porters for it is a little challenging. The boat finally docked in the midway back to the cave entrance. We set foot on the cave and took a closer look to the formations.
Outside the cave, there’s a refreshment area, which is perfect for once we got out of the cave we suddenly felt the scorching heat of the sun again. The area gives a nice view of the cave’s entrance, the river and the mountains.
We went back to the Phong Nha Village by the same boat. And looking at the river banks for the second time, we got to appreciate the place more and its authenticity of Vietnamese culture.
The tour guide and bus driver are waiting for us when we arrived at the boat terminal. The tour guide handed us some snacks. Just so when I thought the bus ride back to Hue won’t be eventful, the driver took the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the guide showed us some of the historical places in DMZ. The ride was shorter than AH1 so we arrived in Hue by 7pm and dropped me off in my hotel few minutes before 7:30pm.
It was tiring but it was worth it. If I have more time, I would’ve stayed there for few more days and explored the other caves’ wonders.August 9, 2016