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Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.

Phong Nha Caves & National Park Touring

Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

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AsiaTravelVietnam
The Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
The Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Introduction

I am sit­ting in my bunk bed in a dorm in Dong Hoi, on the cen­tral coast of Viet­nam. It is the start Viet­namese New Year day week long hol­i­day. Most of the restau­rants are shut, and their own­ers are with their fam­i­lies. I am here, re­flect­ing on my past few days in the Phong Nha Ke Bang Na­tion­al Park. What is so spe­cial about the na­tion­al park? Well it is home to the largest known cave in the world: Son Doong. Son Doong was dis­cov­ered by a lo­cal man in 1991, who would take shel­ter in the cave from time to time. How­ev­er, the full scale of the cave was not re­alised un­til 2009 due to a 60m high wall near to its en­trance, known as the Great Wall of Viet­nam. Once passed, re­searchers then knew of the cave’s shear size and soon af­ter named it as the worlds largest cave. On­ly in 2013 could ex­pe­di­tions be con­duct­ed by the gen­er­al pub­lic, and on­ly one agen­cy has per­mits to run tours. This cave is very re­mote, and costs $3,000 USD for a guid­ed tour. In ad­di­tion to Son Doong there are many more ac­ces­si­ble caves to be vis­it­ed. I went to just one, as I am on a bud­get. But it was a breadth tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I can’t even imag­ine what it must be like to par­take in a mul­ti-day ex­pe­di­tion through a save such as Son Doong. Maybe one day I can stom­ach the high stick­er price.

Paradise Cave

A cavernous paradise
A cav­ernous par­adise - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

To get in to the caves en­trance I rode on my mo­tor­bike for forty min­utes away from the main town through Karst moun­tains lined with ev­er­green jun­gle. It was a misty day, with the con­stant threat of rain. Chilly too, in a way that you don’t ex­pect from South East Asia. I was trem­bling on my bike while rid­ing through the fog, all the while star­ing up at the stun­ning moun­tains around me. Be­hind me was a french fam­i­ly of four on two scoot­ers. I found them lost on the high­way and was lead­ing them to the caves. It was nice to meet them as we had some good con­ver­sa­tions once we ar­rived.

Once reach­ing the cave park it was a forty five minute hike up to the en­trance. The hike climbed up the side of a small moun­tain, through thick for­rest. All about was lush trop­i­cal flo­ra with broad leaves, wind­ing vines, and snag­ging roots. The trail switched back and forth, hug­ging to the edge of the moun­tain, be­fore even­tu­al­ly meet­ing the cave door. Rather than walk­ing in to the cave, the en­trance de­scend­ed down; I had been walk­ing on the roof of the cave for all this time. Look­ing down in to the gloom were tim­ber stairs, at least four sto­ries high be­fore reach­ing the cav­ern floor. Slow­ly as I de­scend­ed did I came to un­der­stand the full ex­panse of the cave, large enough to fit an aero­plane, per­haps big­ger. With­in was col­umn af­ter col­umn of white, carved stone; formed mil­len­nia past by an end­less drip from the roof over­head. Some col­umns were rel­a­tive­ly new and on­ly reached a few me­ters from the floor, oth­ers old and had grown all the way to the ceil­ing. These were the con­struc­tions of the end­less drip. Some col­umns had been aban­doned thou­sands of years ago, as some un­known event had caused the moth­er wa­ter source to change its course. These stone projects of­ten had a de­light­ful sym­me­try, oth­ers were un­gain­ly and lurched from side to side, form­ing shapes, such as an­i­mal faces, or carved in to the like­ness of a Bud­dha. Some were smooth to the touch, oth­ers rough un­der your skin, but still beau­ti­ful none­the­less.

Tunnel in Paradise Cave
Tun­nel in Par­adise Cave - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

I walked through the gloom for more than hour be­fore reach­ing the end of the path, pho­tograph­ing much of what I saw. Stop­ping for a mo­ment, there was si­lence, com­plete aside from the un­seen drip. Voic­es would break the si­lence, from half a dozen lan­guages, whose own­ers you could not find, but their words would make their way to my ears none­the­less, by echo­ing off the cav­erns walls.

Some­time lat­er I emerged in to the misty jun­gle, col­lect­ed my scoot­er and rode away from the stun­ning Par­adise caves. Apt.

National Park Touring

Moody day scootering through the Phong Nha National Park
Moody day scooter­ing through the Phong Nha Na­tion­al Park - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

From the caves I took the long way back to my ho­tel. The road was nar­row and of­ten hugged the cliff edge, with a shear rock face tow­er­ing over­head. In these places I made sure not to linger, as in parts the road was shat­tered where boul­ders had fall­en down from far over­head, with chunks of road cast around as if some­one had dropped a cup. The traf­fic on the road was very light, to the point where I pulled over for five min­utes, set­up my cam­era on a tri­pod, posed in front of it, then packed it all up again - with­out see­ing a sin­gle oth­er per­son. I briefly con­sid­ered rid­ing up to the Laos bor­der to see what it was like, but thought bet­ter of it for the light was fad­ing from the sky. I will see it soon enough. The “fron­tier” signs which I saw around put me off as well. Soon enough I was back home, en­joy­ing a pineap­ple rice from a lo­cal restau­rant.

Fin!

Thanks for read­ing. I def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend vis­it­ing when trav­el­ling through Viet­nam. One of my high­lights for sure. Con­sid­er sub­scrib­ing or fol­low­ing me on In­sta­gram or Twit­ter to stay up to date.

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AsiaTravelVietnam

About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.