Phong Nah-Ke Bang National Park
If you want to visit some of the biggest and most amazing caves in South East Asia and also enjoy a great landscape of mountain jungle, you should go to Phong Nah-Ke Bang National Park.
We arrived at the National Park from Hanoi. That means we took the night train from Hanoi to Don Hoi – entering the train at 22.00 p.m. in Hanoi and getting off the train at 7.30 a.m. the next morning. There are different sleeping coach options, which cost differently. We decided to go for hard sleeper, which was a six bed cabin and paid 25 €/ person. Soft sleepers are supposed to be a little bit more comfortable and only have four beds per cabin, but are a lot more expensive. The cheapest way would be to go for a soft or even a hard seat. Find the detailed options on: www.seat61.com
From Don Hoi train station there are taxis that take you to the Park for 400.000 – 500.000 VND per car – which you can share with others or you ask one of the shuttle buses to take you, which they also do for 100.000 – 125.000 VND per person. The cheapest option would be to share a taxi to the 3 km away bus stop, where the public bus leaves (good informtion about that on wikitravel-phong nah)
To get away again we booked a sleeping-bus that took us directly to Hoi An, for 200.000 VND per person and which is supposed to take 6 – 7 hours – we will see about that… There are two buses going on that route, either at 4.00 a.m. or at 7 a.m.
Son Trach is the name of the village, which is the starting point for visiting the National Park. The village is nothing special and is situated alongside the main road and the river.
We slept at Thien Tangh Hotel for two nights and paid 250.000 VND per night including breakfast, air-conditioning, private bathroom. We decided to stay here because breakfast was included and because it is situated in the middle of Son Trach village – that makes organizing things a little easier.
What to do?
Visiting the National Park and especially it´s many, many cave systems is the one thing to do here.
Since we stayed for two nights, we went to visit two caves: 1. Phong Nah cave (takes about two to three hours and starts in Son Trach village) and 2. Paradise Cave (takes about a half day, because you need to get there and back again).
Phong Nah cave can only be visited with a boat tour. Therefore you go to the ticket center in Son Trach and pay 150.000 VND per person entrance fee plus 360.000 VND for the boat – that can be shared by 12 people. We waited a little while and were a group of 10 people within only ten minutes. Everyone we met was interested in sharing the boat and therefore also the price. There is a river going through most of the cave, so u go in by boat and drive about 4 km up the river, before u can go out and explore a little bit of it by foot.
At our hotel we rented a motorbike for the next day (100.000 VND for one day, not negotiable if you only use it a half day) and went to see Paradise cave. The way there is very easy to drive and the views are great. It feels a little bit like you are in a Tarzan or King Kong movie 😉 – because of the shape f the Carst Mountains and especially the overwhelming jungle swallowing them. The journey took about 40 minutes to get there, passing the Botanical Gardens (40.000 VND per person), which we skipped. At the cave we paid 5.000 VND parking fee and walked to the ticket office. There we had to pay 250.000 VND per person entrance fee. You can then decide if you want to walk the two kilometers to the cave or if you want to take a buggy that drives you for 60.000 VND per person. We walked and it was absolutely an easy walk in the shadows of the trees. After 1.5 km you reach the foot of the mountain and climb stairs and sweated a lot! Once you arrive at the entrance of Paradise cave there are many more stairs to come, which will lead you down into the cave first. You can go into the cave for about 1 km and it´s really great!
Both caves were stunning! They are very big caves with amazing views. This is definitely something we haven’t seen before. The caves are cool! and really huge and def worth a visit.
There are many other caves and trekking tours that you can do in the jungle or the whole are, but we are not that much into tours and went on our own…
Food recommendations in Son Trach:
All the restaurants are situated at the main road and are easy to find.
- Tuan Ngoc Restaurant: A really good place to eat! We had the Nem Lui – a typical dish from Hue, which was very good. They have ok prices and nice staff. Beer 15.000 VND and a main dish between 40.000 – 80.000 VND, the best food we had in Son Trach.
- Bamboo café: A little more pricy, but also a nice place to eat or have a fresh juice. Since they are recommended in the Lonely Planet, it´s full almost the whole day.
- D Arts Cafe: We had lunch at this little place, which was also a very friendly waitress and some nice food – we had their house special and paid 80.000 VND together, which is homemade grilled sausages and a lot more vegies, meat and noodles.