Phong Nha, Vietnam- Tips, Tricks and Things To Do


Our bus left Hue at 1.30 in the afternoon meaning we arrived in Phong Nha at about 6.30pm. We checked into our hotel (it sounds fancier than it was, it was a hotel, but we were in an 8 bed shared room) and dumped our bags, then headed for dinner. There are quite a lot of restaurants on the main backpackers street in Phong Nha, but we settled on 'Bamboo' for our first meal there. It's an Eco Cafe, and was absolutely packed, so we took that as an indicator of how good the food was, and oh my, we were not disappointed. I had the chicken curry and it was AMAZING. It was one of the first meals in Vietnam I'd had where the chicken actually resembled and tasted like chicken. We then headed back for an early night having spent the majority of the day on a tiny minibus.

The next morning we woke up early, had breakfast at our hotel, and then headed to the lobby to wait for our bus to the caves. We'd booked a whole day tour through our hotel, and the day started with a trip to the 8 Ladies Cave and the memorial. This was really interesting and is part of most of the cave tour packages.

Following this, we drove to the next stop and climbed 700m worth of steps to the Paradise Cave. It was huuuuge, really cold (amazing after that sweaty climb) and beautiful. I've seen a few caves in my time but nothing that compares to that - it truly was stunning. If you're ever in Phong Nha, you HAVE to go and see it. Our trip included lunch, so we drove to the dark cave and were provided lunch there. This was the usual buffet style with all sorts of dishes to try. I opted for the veggie version and it was really tasty.  After this, we queued up for our harnesses and headed to the start of the zipline. At the Dark Cave, you take it in turns to zipline to the mouth of the cave. They take photos for you mid-air, which are freely available on their Facebook page the next day.

We then swam to the entrance to the cave, and realized just how necessary the head-torches were. It's not called the Dark Cave for nothing. We trekked through the cave until we reached the mud bath, which, can I just say was the weirdest sensation ever. When you're in the mud, you just float. I'm talking Dead Sea, floating without even trying kind of floating. We went down a natural mudslide and then headed back out of the cave to civilization. There were kayaks waiting for us, so we kayaked in pairs over to the water sports area. Here, there were swings, assault courses, the whole shebang. We then had a rum and coke before being driven back to the hostel in the minivan. All of the above was included in the price (£45), so I'd highly recommend the Cave tour if you're not on a tight budget.

That evening we had a night out - nope, we weren't expecting Phong Nha to have any nightlife either. But, it was good fun and we were surprised by just how many other backpackers were in Phong Nha too - you never see anyone in the daytime. We had drinks at the Easy Tiger Hostel and then headed to Andy's Disco Club.

The following day was a very relaxed one, spent in the pool and laying around in the sun. For lunch, we went and had an incredible pizza at Capture Vietnam. That evening we had dinner at Bamboo again and I had the chicken curry for a second time it was that good. We then waited for our night bus and saw our first proper Asia-style torrential rain, thankfully we were waiting inside. The bus arrived an hour late, was overbooked and had the WORST smelling toilet on board. Sleeper buses... You win some, you lose some.

Very very quiet but with restaurants as far as the eye can see.

- The Caves 

- Look around for your cave trip, some are significantly more expensive than others
- Take plenty of bug spray, the caves are in the jungle

Heritage By Night Hotel

The pool was 100% what sold it to us. Being a hotel, the private rooms were of course significantly better than the hostel room, and I personally wouldn't choose to stay there again. It had a really weird vibe, the staff weren't very friendly and having been into a few of the other hostels, I wouldn't recommend it. 

2 days - the cave trip takes an entire day, and with the bus timings 2 days is perfect

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