Next on the travel agenda was a place called Phong Nha. There were two National Parks I wanted to visit in Vietnam on this trip, but since we only have time for one, we chose Phong Nha-Ke Bang. Since we are avoiding sleeper buses, we took a day train from Da Nang to Dong Hoi.
The train was okay, the seats inclined a little and once they fixed the air conditioning it was easier to sleep.
We chose Dong Hoi because it is the major city closest to Phong Nha, and because the train stops there. We had intended to take the local bus to Phong Nha from Dong Hoi, but we ended up missing it, not knowing it stopped running at 5pm. Motorbikes to the rescue! We rented a couple motorbikes in Dong Hoi and drove up to Phong Nha.
The next day, we took the motorbikes for a beautiful drive through Phong Nha to a cave called Paradise Cave. The whole area is full of caves, and a few have been opened to tourists. The open ones all have an entrance fee. The most visited cave is Phong Nha Cave, and there is one called Dark Cave where you zipline to a kayak and then cruise on the river that runs through the cave. Paradise Cave has a boardwalk built throughout that you walk out and back at your own pace.
Our go-to eatery in Phong Nha was a place called Bamboo Cafe. They had delicious food, and they made great smoothies…even accomodated Charlie’s strange request for a coconut water peanut butter smoothie (in his defense, don’t knock it til you try it. I ended up ordering it twice). We made friends with the waitress, Ha, and had a fun time hanging out with her.