Phong Nha and Hoi An, Vietnam
From Bai Tu Long Bay we returned to Hanoi by bus, then got on a night train to Dong Hoi. We were headed for Phong Nha-Be Kang National Park to see some caves and a more rural part of Vietnam. The night train wasn’t so bad- we roomed with a nice Australian couple and I at least was able to get some sleep (though Andrew didn’t). We boarded at 8pm and hopped off at 6:30am.
After cabbing to Phong Nha town, we arrived at a truly awesome hostel called Easy Tiger. Wanting to waste no time, we immediately joined an all day tour that started at 8am.
The tour began at Paradise Cave, a massive, 31 km long cave that was just discovered in 2005. How crazy is that? Then we went to the Dark Cave. We ziplined to the entrance of the cave, then swam and waded inside with life jackets and head lamps. We were in a large group, but something about the beauty and the darkness of this cave made everyone go quiet as we waded through it. At the back of the cave we entered a crevice and began walking down a very muddy and narrow passage way. It got muddier and muddier, until at last we waded into a POOL of mud. It was so thick that you could sit in it, lift up your feet, and not sink. We spent about half an hour in this mud bath, basically acting like tiny children as we splashed and played in the mud.
On the second day we decided to rent a motorbike and explore the area on our own. This day was pure bliss. The area is very uncrowded, so it was a perfect place to learn how to drive the motorbike. We drove on back roads, searching for “The Pub with Cold Beer”, where we met two other awesome couples with whom we ate, swam, and laughed for hours. Then we searched out the “Duck Farm”, where we thought we might be able to eat some duck, but was actually just the house of a very old man who had lots of ducks. He showed us his ducks, we all smiled and nodded at each other for a while, then we left. At the hostel we indulged in some American-style food, such as nachos, onion rings, pizza, and salad. Yes, all of those things in one night.
After a couple of beautiful days, we carried on our journey to Hoi An, our last stop in Vietnam. Hoi An is an adorable, picturesque little town with a canal running through it that is completely centered around tourism. It has shop after shop after shop of the same t-shirts and dresses, and lots of tailors who will custom-make you a dress or shoes. We spent some time walking and eating and shopping, but also rented a motorbike to go see the nearby beaches and Marble Mountains.
Of the 4 places we visited in Vietnam, I would rank them accordingly: Phong Nha, Hanoi, Hoi An, Halong Bay. By far, our best experience was in Phong Nha. The area was so beautiful and relaxed and happy, with so much to do and see and love.
Now, onward to Cambodia!