Our original plan was to go from Hoi An to Hue and then up again to Hanoi but we decided to go with Rico, Bianca and Tom to the Phong Nha national park – home to the world’s largest cave that has its own ecosystem in and Asia’s longest cave! The discovery of these cave systems are relatively recent so who knows what else is in there somewhere?
Anyway, back to Hoi An for a minute. The five of us got the
bus to Danag together. Getting on was much easier than getting off as the conductor essentially threw people on and off the bus! On our arrival we looked at a map for a nearby hostel and headed there with the intention of leave our heavy bags there for the day before our train that night. We had a quick stop for a drink before the others rented motorbikes and went for a drive and the three of us went to the marble mountians.
The Marble Mountains themselves were really cool, and as you might be able to guess they were mountains made of marble. You could get a lift up to the top of the mountain before exploring pagodas and caves with huge Buddhas. So we were looking around and the three of us got effectively ambushed by a whole class of Vietnamese students who wanted photos with us and to interview us for their project on foreigners! Questions ranged from what do you think of the weather here to what are your dreams! They left us very bemused and confused. We felt like the attraction instead!
We headed back to the city for dinner at an average vegetarian restaurant before meeting the others back at the hostel, collecting our bags and heading to the train station.
After negotiating the busy train station and almost boarding the wrong train, we were on our way to Phong Nha. Unfortunately the train was probably the worst train I have ever been on: it was smelly and dirty, with rags instead of curtains. Lush. Thankfully it wasn’t a long journey so going to sleep made it better. At least we had soft seats rather than hard seats.
We arrived from Danang at 5:30am and we walked very sleepily across the town to the bus station to get transport into the national park. The six of us lay across the bus station waiting room seats waiting for the first bus. When it was finally time to go the bus took another hour to get to our final destination. We jumped off, got to our hostel and ordered big breakfasts all round.
Rico was catching a flight the next morning from Danag (where we’d just come from) so it turned out he could only spend half a day with us before he had to leave 😧 we tried to make the most of it by exploring the small town and trying to see the Phong Nha cave. Unfortunately the trip would take too long so we had to skip that for the moment, and just went for lunch/smoothies instead in a great cafe called Bamboo.
Soon it came time to say bye to Rico and we waved him off onto his bus. The remaining five of us then went back to the cave and did the boat tour through the cave. It was awesome to see inside though we were getting super tired on the boat as we had basically not slept the night before. Here’s a snap of the boat and caves :