Distance: 293 km
Time taken: Around 5 hours
Route rating: 6/10
Today was a long calm and somewhat uneventful drive first along highway 1 and then on the HCM Highway taking us from Hue to Phong Nha National Park.
The journey took us right through the DMZ (demilitarised zone) which was the border of North and South Vietnam during the Vietnam war. The name DMZ is somewhat ironic given that at the time it was dubbed this, the area was the most highy militarised place on earth… Lonely Planet suggested plenty of sights to see here including tunnels and museums but as we had already had our fill of this down in HCM (at the Cu Chi tunnels and American war museum) we decided to skip these attractions.
One thing we attempted to find was a Vietnamese military grave yard. As per usual there were no signs for it when we got to the area so we were unable to find it. As we were zooming along the HCM highway, the heavens opened up. This was the first rain we had on our trip and we were woefully unprepared. Our bags were protected in ponchos but we had foolishly overlooked purchasing ones for ourselves so had to make an emergency stop to buy some on the side of the road. The shop had ponchos that came with tops and bottoms but sadly and somewhat amusingly they didn’t have my size.
A few hours later and feeling extremely fashionable we pulled into Phong Nha. The low lying clouds over the limestone karsts lent the area an almost ancient jurassic feel. With the theme tune to Jurassic park running through my head we pulled into Nguyen Shack, our accommodation for the night.
Phong Nha National Park
Phong Nha national park contains the oldest limestone karsts in Asia and is home to some of the lagest caves in the world. It is definitely worth including in any itinerary through Vietnam. Several tour operators run active tours into the caves which include ziplining, kayaking and swimming which looked awesome. Unfortunately due to Katherine’s tradional backpacker motorcycle burn we weren’t able to do these activities. We did however venture into Paradise cave which is one of the most impressive and out of this world places I have ever been.
This cave stretches on underground for 31 km and is truely breathtaking in its size and grandeur. Walking through it it feels like you’re on another planet, albeit one inhabited by selfie stick wielding tourists. The ride from town to the cave was almost as amazing as the main attraction as you follow the river along cutting in between the ancient karst peaks.
For all sections of the trip click here