The highlight of our stay in Phong Nha village came about because of the eating binge I had been on prior to leaving for our trip.
Before I get into that, one sidenote is that, in our humble opinions, anyone travelling to Vietnam should make time for a stay at this village within Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park. We loved the contrast of staying in a small, rural village after the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. We stayed at a little hotel, the Phong Nha Coco House, which sits overlooking a river a short walk from the village's main street. By the end of our stay, the owner of the hotel even flipped us the keys to his own motorbike and let us take it to town for dinner when he saw that we were planning to walk one evening. It was that kind of place. But I digress!
If you read the guidebooks or Tripadvisor, the thing to do in the national park is explore the caves. This can be done to a limited extent on one's own, but to get past the initial parts of the cave entrances, a professional guide is required.
Most of the guide companies offer "adventure" tours featuring ziplining, kayaking, and the like in and around the caves. The problem is that, because I currently tip the scales at 225 lbs (it could be slightly less now that we have been more active during the trip!), I was approximately 25 lbs over the zipline weight limit.
Because of this, we were forced to book one of the more expensive day tours which involved a lot of cave trekking but no ziplining. For comparison, the $115/person Nicole and I paid for the tour totals to just a little less than we paid for five nights accommodation at our hotel, the meals we ate at the hotel (which was most of them), usually a beer in the evening, a day's motorcycle rental, and laundry service.
Wow, but it turned out to be totally worth it. The tour we booked involved trekking approximately 4.5 miles into one of the largest caves in the park, Paradise Cave. According to our guide we were between 100m and 200m underground for most of that time. It was unlike anything I've experienced and felt like being on another planet. At a few points, we had to swim an underground river where there was no walking area available. Definitely a long and tiring day, but amazing.
Incidentally, a few days afterwards I was talking to another(skinnier) traveler at our hotel who had done one of the other tours we had considered before finding out about the zipline weight requirement. He said it was fun, but he really wished he had done the tour we did instead because he had heard such good things about it. Well, you should have eaten more burritos and ice cream prior to your trip, my friend!
Like this post? Want to read more about Travis and Nicole's travel adventures? Check out Our Overview And Observations From Travelling For Two Months Through Vietnam.
Then sign up here for the Sunday Shoutout, our weekly email newsletter providing a link to that week's blog posts and a few other odds and ends we are interested in.