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?)
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…!
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!