Photo: Oxalis Adventure
Forget the city, venture into rural Phong Nha.
Turn your attention away from the chaotic hubbub of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh; enter the natural, idyllic charm of Phong Nha’s bucolic setting in central Vietnam. From the adventurous spirit of the Ho Chi Minh Biking Trail to the vast hollows of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, this is one short getaway that is chicken soup for the urban soul.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and its wonders
A preserved sliver of Nature’s creation resides within this park of thick jungle and karst mountains – a sacred UNESCO World Heritage Site – in the form of Phong Nha Cave and Hang Son Doong Cave.
The former conceals a snaking subterranean river system, bringing you past chandeliers of dripping stalactites and the most spectacular stone columns painted in all manners of natural hues and patterns – relics from millions of years ago. Disembark about 3 kilometres in for a thrilling caving expedition before a final invigorating frolic in its secret underground lake.
Nature’s masterpiece, Hang Son Doong Cave, currently holds the title of World’s Largest Cave, spanning over 5.5 miles, and can fit a 40-storey skyscraper within. This is a whole other realm that has created in itself its own ecosystem and weather conditions: lush foliage, underground rivers and fluffy clouds unsullied by the touch of man.
Photo: Edgardo W. Olivera
Rural simplicity of Phong Nha Farmstay
Built in the midst of peaceful farmland, Phong Nha Farmstay is truly an escape, for its many city-dwelling guests – away from the buzz of downtown Saigon where the zoom of zig-zagging motorcycles is the constant soundtrack.
Surrounded by rolling paddy fields, experience the magic of country life. The tranquil rurality does not compromise the indulgent comfort of the boutique guesthouse, rife with a blend of local Vietnamese and French Colonial style.
From the front verandah, the stunning view of the sunset is unparalleled.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, just off the famed Ho Chi Minh Trail, is just a pedal away and the centrestone of this rising adventure capital of Vietnam.
Bike the countryside: Bong Lai Valley
Along the dirt road, along the river’s edge, is the rurality of Bong Lai Valley. First introduced to travellers using a hand-drawn map by Phong Nha Farmstay, the cycling trail around the valley is still fairly undiscovered.
Weave through vast farms, sprawling rice fields and little indigenous villages, backdropped by the looming karst mountains.
In the dry season, Wild Boar Eco Farm makes for a scenic stopover, offering freshly cooked pork and swinging hammocks from which to enjoy it, overlooking the river and endless wilderness beyond.
After a day of winding country roads, kick up your feet and enjoy the surreality of the serene landscape with a cold beer at one of the rustic watering holes you come across. In fact, there is one with a quirkily literal, telling moniker: ‘The Pub with Cold Beer’.
It is most convenient and time-saving to take a 3.5 hour flight to Hanoi first, before transferring to a domestic flight of about an hour to Dong Hoi Airport. Then, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is only an hour’s drive away.