Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

 

Boat rides along Son River, heading to Phong Nha cave. Photo: Hoang Minh phuc

 

Quang Binh’s boulevards are far removed from the chaos of Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City. It never used to be a tourist destination of Vietnam. The city is not a well-known place of designer boutiques or high-end restaurants that you can find in any fast-paced Asian city. Quang Binh has its own trait of a complex mix of history and charm, the turquoise colored river and the incredibly crystalline limestone mountains, which you can only find at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – a magnificent gift of nature.

Getting to the site on a scooter from Dong Hoi, we had a great chance to explore the vast landscape with ricefields stretching to the horizon, sometimes passing by a village with street market selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

As one of UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites, Phong Nha-Ke Bang impresses visitors by its almost mystical qualities and the surrealistic scenery. The limestone formations, grottoes, and caves are both bizarre and amazing.

 

 

Visitors take stone stairs to explore Ke Bang limestones forest. Photo: Hoang Minh Phuc

 

Getting a ticket to pass the entrance to the park, visitors are divided into a group of 10 and start up the boat trip to explore the site.  Boat first takes visitors along the Son River upstream to the Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave.

 

Caves inside Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Photo: Nguyen Anh Le

 

One of the adventure tour sites is boating upward on the Chay River into primitive forests, as the river becomes sinuous with several waterfalls and whirlpools until tourists arrive at Tro Mong. This tour sites have been surveyed and included in local travel agents besides cave exploration tour.

The shapes and the positions of the formations and streams resemble particular objects, hence, most are given a name by the locals. Some of the most famous are Nuoc Ngang (Horizonal Spring), a stone blockading a stream current names Da Nam (Crouching Stone), a chopping-board-shaped stone names Chan Thot (Chopping Board).

 

Underground river. Photo: Vietnam Travel

 

But above all, the most spectacular scene is Nuoc Troi (Surfacing Stream), a stream surfacing from the ground. The uniqueness of the streams derives from the current of water that run for a long distance, and then disappear under the ground.

In January 2009, the United States-based Los Angeles Times listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in its recommended world’s 29 destinations to visit. As an intersection of the past and the present, the Earth and Elysium, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park deserves to be one of the best fascinating sites in the world.

FAST FACTS

Getting there

Vietnam Airlines has a fare to Hanoi for about $1300 flying via Ho Chi Minh City. Thai Airways has a fare for about $1070 flying via Bangkok; Malaysia Airlines has a fare for about $976 flying via Kuala Lumpur. Australians require a visa for Vietnam for a stay of up to 30 days. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is assessable by road (National Road 1A or Ho Chi Minh Highway 450km south of Hanoi, 50 km north of Dong Hoi, 210 km north of Hue); by train at Dong Hoi Railway Station on Hanoi-Saigon Railway; by airplane at Dong Hoi Airport 45 km south of the park. Tourists are served at the Tourism Service Centre at Son Trach commune of Bo Trach District, the entrance of this centre is located by Ho Chi Minh Highway.

Stay there

Sun Spa Resort has rooms from $110 ($175). See http://www.sunsparesortvietnam.com/index.php?m=singlepage&menuid=2 for different packages.

For more information see

http://www.vietnamtourism.com/

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Comments
  1. Theage.com.au/Travel/Destinations/SE Asia/Vietnam

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