Friday, 12 September 2014

Phong Nha (Son Trach)


When we told people we were going to take a bus at the northern bus station in Huế to take a direct bus to Phong Nha (Son Trach), nobody believed us. They told us there was no bus, and that we have to go to Đồng Hới first.

The bus to Phong Nha (Son Trach)

Different sources told us that the local bus with a "Phuc Vu" inscription on its front, would leave at 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning. But when we finally got to the bus station, we had to wait for the bus to arrive, and then the driver told us it would leave at 11:30.

Sunset from the homestay

We were expecting a really nice place from the reviews of the homestay in TripAdvisor, but nothing prepared us for the view of the area. It was beautiful.

Crossing the river with a scooter

The bus went to Đồng Hới, and then continued to Phong Nha, where all the other passengers were dropped off at different locations. When we were alone, we the two only westerners, the driver drove us straight to our homestay.

Gathering some river weed

Ho Khanh's Homestay is a very nice place with, for the time being, 3 double bedrooms. It's located on the river and the first thing you see when you step out of your bedroom, is the river. The first thing you do, is swim in the river.

Phong Nha Cave

On the first day we relaxed and swam in the river quite a lot. I also did a small bicycle tour close-by to discover these absolutely gorgeous mountains.

Phong Nha Cave

Phong Nha Cave

Phong Nha Cave

On the second day we went to visit Phong Nha and Tiên Sơn Caves which are very close to the homestay.

The way up to Tiên Sơn
When we bought tickets, we bought the entrance for Phong Nha and Tiên Sơn Caves and also a boat ticket. As the boat ticket is per boat, we waited to see if some people wanted to share a boat with us. A little while later, a nice couple from Holland were eager to join in. Yvette and Archie are two nice persons we enjoyed discovering the caves with.

Tiên Sơn Cave

Tiên Sơn Cave

We decided to go with again with Yvette and Archie to discover Paradise Cave the next day. This would involve renting a motorbike. Anything with two wheels and an engine is called a motorbike in Asia.

Tiên Sơn Cave

So we asked Djung, the manager of the homestay, where we could rent a motorbike in good conditions, and he told us we could go to Cavern Bar. So we went.

Paradise Cave

When we arrived there, one person rented us this old crappy motorbike with very soft brakes and almost no fuel. I tried to explain to him that I wanted a full tank, but that got me nowhere. He said ok, and then didn't do anything about it. So we had to buy gasoline to fill the tank, and gauge what we supposed what we would need. We put a full tank which cost us VND 100'000 (about USD 5). It was way too much.

Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave

Once way out on the road, the bike started making weird noises. So we stopped a couple of times to check it out, but found nothing. So we decided to ignore it. Sound choice, we made it back safe (spoiler here).

Paradise Cave

The third cave we visited was really impressive in size, if less in structure. You could fit whole houses in some of the chambers. Don't be scared to click on the pictures to see a bigger version of it.

Paradise Cave

After lunch at the cave, it started pouring down heavily, so we decided to wait before continuing the short road trip. It stopped after something like 20 minutes, so we went on. We drove through beautiful and amazing scenery. At some point, the rain started again, and we kitted up with our rain coats and ponchos. What was quite amazing, was that we drove in the rain, but in front of us, there was blue sky. And in the back, the sky was clearer than just upwards. But this one cloud had chosen to rain on us. It was fun. The rain was warm, we were close to the homestay, and a nice beer awaited us.

Entrance of Paradise Cave

And being three bikers in the group, we had to have the typical biker meeting during our excursion.

Photo by Yvette