Paradise found: No need to visit any other cave!

If you ask me to visit another cave, I’m going to say no. Maybe I’ll pay the $3,000 to visit Song Doong next door, the world’s largest cave. I might possibly go to that other really big one in Kentucky. But our visit to Paradise Cave today was nothing short of breathtaking!

Paradise Cave was discovered in 2005 and has only been open to the public since 2011. It’s 31.4 kilometres and large chambers that reach 100 metres high make it a spectacular place to visit. We only penetrated the first kilometre or so, but there are tours that will take you a further six kms past the boardwalks and lamps.

To understand the scale, notice the wooden staircase in my cover photo of the first chamber. The “ants” that you see descending are people.

The cave is full of stalagmites and stalactites, and pools of crystal clear water. Because we are staying right in the area, we managed to visit in relative peace before the massive tour groups and their loudspeakers showed up (how can anyone travel that way?)

Large stalagmites are reflected in a pool inside Paradise Cave

Large stalagmites are reflected in a pool inside Paradise Cave

After lunch we visited the Dark Cave, which was the highlight for the girls. This cave is a branch of the Phong Nha cave system, and is 5,558 metres long and 80m high. There are no lights in this cave, so we wore headlamps and life jackets, as we also swam through an underground river. At one point we turned off our headlamps and were plunged into complete darkness.

Near the back of the cave you crawl through piles of slippery mud and get to a large chamber where we had the best mud bath known to humans. Yangshuo’s Gold Cave has nothing on this. The Dark Cave is authentic whereas I’m pretty sure the Gold Cave has had quite a bit of help from people interested in making money…!

Sophie and Claire on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Sophie and Claire on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

We followed Highway 20 to get to the caves, which is also known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This was the pipeline of troops and supplies from the north to the south during the war. The route is called Hwy 20 today to recognize the massive deaths in the under-20 age group during the war.

Interesting to note that the average age of an American soldier in Vietnam was 19. When nations decide to fight, it’s always their youth that lose.

If you are passing through Vietnam, Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is a must. This area has truly some of the most spectacular caves in the world, and the relative newness of tourism to the area makes you still special among the locals. I also can’t say enough about the Phong Nha Farmstay. It’s a great little hideaway near the caves!

 

6 Comments on “Paradise found: No need to visit any other cave!

  1. OMG, great reading about the caves Heather, but scary on the other hand especially the knee deep mud yikes!

    • Thanks, Bridie! I did have in the back of my mind what happens if the mud piles start to shift, or will I be able to get up if I fall face down… 🙂 But it was an experience we will never forget!

      -Heather

  2. Have you collectively lost your minds!
    Swimming in an underground river, why not the bowels of a dragon?
    Magnificent entry Heather.
    Kudos to you all.
    Nadine

    • Dragons figure so much into Asian folklore that I’m sure we probably were in the bowels of a dragon!!!

      – Heather

    • The mud was about knee deep. It was very thick and hard to slog through. The mounds of mud on either side of the cave were about two storeys high. Part way down we had a mud slide into the river!

      – Heather

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