Thursday 7th December
Miles: All done on a moped Climbing: I went underground
Phong Nha is famous for its caves and there were 2 in particular I wanted to visit. Paradise Cave was the biggest cave that you could visit without needing a 7 day hike and then there was Dark Cave which had only recently been discovered. It was unlit, had no fences and you could properly explore.
The organised tours were quite expensive, at least £90 to do both but I figured I could do it cheaper and after asking around I’d worked out that I could hire my own moped, fuel it, pay the entry fee for both caves and buy my own lunch and the whole day would cost about £30. So that’s what I ended up doing. I could have saved myself a few pound by cycling instead of hiring the moped but this was a rest day after all.
Hiring the moped was scarily easy. I handed over the equivalent of £3.25 and was handed the key. No deposit, no ID, no name given, no questions asked. I did however ask for a quick run through of the controls. The lady showed me how to start it, revved the accelerator saying “this to go fast” before saying “and this the horn”. This is apparently all I needed to know. I found a petrol station, filled her up, and headed off to Paradise Cave.
Paradise Cave was stunning. It was massive and felt like it went on for miles. Luckily it was fairly quiet when I was there but I ended up walking around with a few other tourists I met there. The pictures really won’t do it justice but here’s one just to give you an idea.
After lunch with my fellow tourists I headed off to Dark Cave.
Dark Cave was amazing. We were going to be swimming so I was wearing only my bikini plus a buoyancy aid and a hard hat with head torch.
To begin with we zip lined on Vietnams longest zip line across the river to the mouth of the cave.placeholder://
Then we jumped in a swam into the cave. A little way in it got shallower and sometimes we were climbing over rocks, sometimes wading, sometime swimming. It soon got dark so we only had the light from our head torch to see the way. After a while we reached a small beach inside the cave where we left our buoyancy aids before heading off into a narrow tunnel with bats flying above our heads. We had been warned of snakes, spiders, rats and eels also but apart from the bats and a few spiders I didn’t see any other wildlife.
Finally at the end of the narrow tunnel we reached a cave full of mud where we wallowed and floated around in darkness for a while (there may have been a bit of mud wrestling too) before heading back whilst trying to wash the mud off during the swim.
After we left the cave we kayaked along the river to another zip line. For this one we weren’t clipped in, you just held on then fell into the water at the end.
The whole thing was a lot of fun.
Back at the hostel I showered and changed (I had mud EVERYWHERE) before heading back to the beer garden for dinner and a few drinks. I had a bit of an early night as I had a crazy idea of doing 130 miles the next day but I had taken some advice and not booked any accommodation. I had checked where I was likely to find some though and I had a backup if I didn’t manage all those miles.