The evening arrived, and after waiting for our bus (which felt like forever), we traveled from Hanoi to Phong Nha in 11 hours. We arrived at about five in the morning, and most napped for four hours, until it was time to visit the notorious caves in the area. We started with everyone walking up to Paradise Cave, and once inside, it was a two-kilometer trek return.
Oh the cave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is 31 kilometers long, and can reach up to 100 meters high and 150 meters long! The natural architecture is beautiful, and surprisingly, the cave was only first discovered in 2005, by a local man, and after this, British cave researchers explored the first five kilometers.
After this hike, we had an optional excursion into the dark cave. Only myself and one other traveler decided to go on the adventure. We started by gliding down the largest zip line in Vietnam, and then proceeded to swim toward the entrance of the cave in frigid cold water. Flashlights attached to the helmet were necessary, as everyone walked slowly through the water in a single-file line. Once we got to the mud, words cannot describe the experience that unraveled. Maybe the best way to explain it would be a bath of pudding? It was definitely the most viscous, thick liquid that I have ever swam in, and this will probably hold true for the remainder of my lifetime.
After playing in the mud and making sure that every part of the body was covered, we washed off, made our way out of the cave, and kayaked back toward the entrance. It was here, that we reached our final activity of the excursion, which was a mini-obstacle course, with zip lines, rope climbs, and spider-web nets. Unfortunately, the most difficult part of the path was closed off, due to construction.
After showering off, we drove back to the hostel, where we had a couple of hours until dinner. I was able to eat my first, tasty cheeseburger in Vietnam, and wash it down with a chocolate, peanut butter milkshake; yum!! The night was one of our first early ones, as a sleeper bus at 4:45 am awaited. Unfortunately, we were on a jam-packed, full sleeper bus, and I was not in a very comfortable arrangement. To make it worse, the driver dropped us off a couple of hours from our destination, Hoi An. Luckily, Dan, our head guide, made some quick and swift calls, and got us on the next bus to our location.
We spent three relaxing days in Hoi An, where nothing happened much during the day, since the weather was poor. Many decided to take advantage of the cheap prices for suits, dresses, nice shoes, bags, etc. I had just bought a new suit a few months ago, so I took the time to relax, plan my travel accommodations after Vietnam, and search internship opportunities for the upcoming summer. The three days flew by, with slow afternoons, and entertaining evenings. One afternoon, a Vietnamese cooking class was available as an extra outing, but I’m not the best with making food, so I decided to pass. One of my fellow travellers even got the opportunity to DJ for the first time at one of the clubs!
This trip is sadly flying by, but I’ve been having a ton of fun, and am trying not to think about having to say goodbye to everyone and Vietnam in just a few days.
The next blog will cover our time spent in Nha Trang and Da Lat, while the penultimate blog is about the final stop, Ho Chi Minh City. I’m hoping to put out a final post on the trip after leaving Vietnam, which will be dedicated to reflecting on the overall experience.
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