Fong Nha national park tour

Some people have some strange fantasies, and we won’t go into them. But usual ones include, climbing everest, reaching the poles, learning a new language, flying like a bird, having a bath of chocolate. Well the last two we got to do today and it is exactly as amazing as you think!

One of the tours from Easy Tiger hostel took in the best bits of the National park. We all piled into a transit minibus and bumped along the wobbly roads. Again I was a little hung over and being in a hot, swaying bus was not helping. When we stopped at a temple it was just in time to prevent me spewing.

The temple was devoted to the 127km of Ho Chi Minh trail that had to be build from here into Laos in 127 days. A massive achievement considering the terrain we had seen. There was also a shrine to 8 young people who had hidden in the caves to escape the bombing. Some rock had fallen and covered the entrance and after 8 days there was no signs of life. Now there stands an 8m tall banana plant (that I am reliably informed is more like 6m) that produces 8 bunches of bananas each year. Who knows, but me and Mike stayed outside to recover. We figured spewing in a temple would be frowned upon.

Phong Nha national park is an incredible place. Basically it’s a collection a tall vertical limestone mountains and spectacular jungle. There was a local who during the war had become lost in the jungle and found a cave to hide in. He eventually found his way back to his family but could not remember how to get back for 20 years. Recently he had rediscovered it and called it Paradise Cave because of the temperate climate in there and the micro-climate where it opens up to the sky. It has now been turned into an attraction.

To get to the entrance you first have to get an electric stretched limo golf caddy through the jungle. It’s like the car ride in jurassic park through trees and vines along a narrow concrete path. After the countless hours at theme parks as a kid it’s hard to remember that the vines and logs are all real! “That snake model is so life like its…. FUCKING MOVING!!!”

After a hike up the disability ramp we descended stairs into Paradise cave…. Not sure why disabled people would bother coming up to the entrance and no further but hey ho. The cave extends for 31km under the mountains. The first cavern is absolutely massive with gigantic rock formations and stalag(m/t)ites. My camera just didn’t do justice to the splendour of the shapes and range of forms so I just enjoyed it. The only thing to spoil the experience (apart from the high pitched gaggle of chinese tourists) was the lighting in the caves. Most definitely required to be able to view the spectacular rocks but in the process affecting the caves ecosystem. Infront of the lights, they have been there long enough and provide enough light for lichen and moss to start growing. It’s completely artificial and unnatural for that to happen deep in this cave and yet, as humans, just by looking, we are screwing it up. For thousands of years, water has been trickling into these caverns and building the mites 0.013mm per year (according to Viet, our guide) now there is moss growing, this process will be unnaturally affected… By humans looking.

So now we know we are messing with thousand year old rock features by just looking, we thought we would go and swim in thousand year old primeval ooze! To get there we had to take a 400m zip line across the valley. Im sure it would have been great fun but I wasn’t allowed to… built by little vietnamese chaps, they didn’t understand that people come bigger than they did. Basically I am too fat to do the zip line, unimpressed. So me and another super-human contented ourselves in kayaks, splashing the passing anorexics… Not bitter.

  1. In the cave we treked through small passages with only helmets and head torches and swimsuits to the end where it descended into a puddle of the thickest, most fabulously silky, slippery mud. Apparently prehistoric ooze is good for your skin so we had great fun splatting each other. It took some effort to keep the GoPro lens clean for as long as possible before I gave up and dove in. It’s hard to describe the feeling but floating in dense mud means you are on the surface bobbing like a boat. It’s like cold melted chocolate in colour and texture but not taste… definitely not taste. On the way out there was a mud slide. Mike went first and lubed up the channel… Ahem… And everyone followed. By the end, the bigger guys were absolutely flying down there and skipping far down the rocky cave floor. Its was quite abrasive after the mud landing but hilarious fun!