An Escapade in Phong Nha Ke Bang, the Oldest Karst Mountains in Asia, UNESCO Heritage Site

I visited Phong Nha Ke Bang last year during my 1-month trip in Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh up to Hanoi. As Vietnam has so many beautiful cities and destinations to explore and I only had a limited time, I stayed one night in Phong Nha Ke Bang. I must say that I really hoped to stay one more night and I hope to go back here again in the future!

Son Trach Town (source: Phong Nha Explorer)

There is a small town called Son Trach in Bo Trach district, which is the city centre where restaurants and hotels are gathered. The sleeper buses from north and south of Vietnam drop passengers off here, so it was convenient to stay right here. I was travelling with my boyfriend, so we booked a private room in a hotel in the city. The price per night was 320,000VND for a very spacious room with two king beds.

After the long journey on sleeping bus, we arrived in the evening, so we had a nice and decent dinner at a restaurant few metres away from the hotel. Our hotel was just across the street from Easy Tiger Hostel. We were curious to check the loud music and crowd of people in this deserted area, so we went in for a beer. The bar area was packed with backpackers mingling and chatting over drinks. I was pretty surprised to see a ‘party’ hostel in the middle of nowhere and I think it’s a great place to stay for backpackers looking for fun.

Easy Tiger Hostel and other hotels in Son Trach (source: Phuotluon)

As our entire trip was all about deciding on the spot spontaneously, we were given options to book a guided tour to different caves and tourist attractions or to rent a motorbike and go on our own. The tour options included various visits and activities such as boat ride on the river, several caves and swimming in the caves. 

But as we were more interested in taking the full advantage of riding on our own to enjoy the natural sceneries along the way, we decided to opt for motorbike rental. It was hassle-free renting a motorbike at the hotel reception and off we went to our adventure in Paradise Cave early in the morning. We decided to visit Paradise Cave as we heard it’s the most beautiful. 

It is about 25km from the town and the road was pretty manageable and smooth most of the time. The local villages and landscapes along the way made the journey peaceful and relaxing and the karst mountains by the roadside were stunning to watch.

Nice and smooth road to Paradise Cave

When we arrived at the Paradise Cave, we could buy a ticket with or without a ride on electric car to and from the cave entrance. We bought the tickets without the ride and walked. It was a much longer walk than we had expected and maybe it felt longer because it was a hot and humid summer day. At the point where the electric cars drop guests off starts the yet super long walk up the stairs to the real gate of the cave.

Sweaty and tired we arrived at the entrance to the cave and a super cool breeze from the cave welcomed us down to steep staircase into its famous wonders. That breeze was absolutely rewarding after almost an hour of walking in the heat. And inside the cave was full of dazzling lights illuminating the fascinating stalactites and stalagmites. A visit to cave always amuses me and takes me in wonders and magic of nature and Paradise Cave was definitely one of the most memorable caves I’ve ever visited.

Glorious Paradise Cave (source: Viator)

After Paradise Cave, we took the same road back and went to Mooc Spring. We had no idea what to expect as we hadn’t done much research at all, but we were in for a mega treat after the cave. Mooc in Vietnamese means unknown and this natural spring was named so because of its unknown origin. The spring water is turquoise but there’s a hint of something more magical about it. There are basic ticket with limited access and all-access ticket, which gives complete access to the area and includes a life-jacket for swimming in the water. Life-jacket is required for swimming, so you should get the all-access ticket if you want to swim. 

The water was very cold and thus perfect to cool down from the cave visit. There were free inflated boats with oars and a tower to jump off into the water as well as bamboo bridges for a nice stroll around the spring. There was a restaurant inside the Mooc Spring serving limited menus for hungry swimmers. A swim break in the spring was so heavenly and awarding that I’d go back solely for another swim here.

It requires some courage to do the Mooc Spring jump!
Mooc Spring Eco-Trail bamboo bridge (source: Oxalis)

During our short stay in Phong Nha Ke Bang, we fell in love with a restaurant called Bamboo Cafe because of its amazing food, cosy atmosphere and extremely friendly staff who were genuinely hospitable. The concept is all about environmentally friendly approach and you’ll be able to see their philosophy dissolved in every detail of this place. I’d say Bamboo Cafe and Mooc Spring were two of highlights during my 1-month trip in Vietnam! 

Absolutely love this Bamboo Cafe! (source: Vietnam Tourism)

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