Phong Nha: a Little Piece of Heaven
Adventure, nature, and much more in Vietnam's most underrated hidden gem
There is magic in Phong Nha, one can feel it right away when getting to this hidden piece of rural paradise, lost between mystic green mountains, ancient caves, enchanting blue rivers, and silent rice fields. The town remained anonymous for many years before hitting the headlines for the discovery of the world's largest cave, the Son Doong, which put the village in the spotlight for its adventure tourism.
Nature dominates the scene and the chaos and the compulsive tourism of the nearby urban centers are no longer perceived in this sleepy village of Northern-Vietnam which still embodies all distinctive treats of an old Vietnamese culture that is gradually disappearing, contaminated by the logic of economic progress generated from our societies. Here, the air is heavy with ancient energies, spirituality floats around the silence of the surrounding jungle and the locals still manage to live a modest life, working the fields that keep their souls pure and noble.
Touring the number of caves lost in the jungle is, without a doubt, the main activity one can do when stopping by for a few days. The most visited grottos are Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave, and Dark Cave. If the first two caves are great spots to marvel at all the formations, taking great photos as well as combining both with a delightful boat tour in the mystic water of the Son River, Dark Cave is only suitable for the most adventurous and can be a very challenging expedition which involves tiring activities such as zip-lining, kayaking, or long-distance hikes, definitely not recommended to those not fit enough. Visiting Son Doong Cave, the largest in the world, is also possible as the grotto was officially open to the public in 2013 after receiving permission from the Vietnamese Government. Here, booking a 4 days tour is the best way to go to explore the gigantic formations and the underground rivers or even sleeping in the best underground campsites on Earth to soak up the unique atmosphere of the majestic Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam's last unspoiled rural masterpiece. Those less reckless can still enjoy a quiet expedition to the peacefull Botanical Garden, located in the heart of the National Park, with a wide range of vegetation, lovely walking paths, and scenic waterfalls, undoubtedly the best spot for all the nature lovers out there.
Phong Nha is not only nature and adventure though, but also an open-air recreation center where more and more hostels, clubs and restaurants are emerging in different parts of town, drawing the attention of those tourists who also fancy a good night out now and then, and love having a few drinks on the dancefloor while others sleep.
In short, Phong Nha is an authentic place with a growing economy which means that now is the right time to go and have a peek at all those amazing places mentioned above. Also, spending the night in one of the traditional homestays in town is a great way to experience an even more distinctive sojourn, spending the entire day with the locals and enjoying the real taste of the Vietnamese tradition.