Phong Nha? Where is that? And what can I do there? That’s probably the questions you ask yourself right now. Everyone has heard from Ninh Binh, and you can read about it in every other blog but Phong Nha is nearly undiscovered, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so amazing.
Phong Nha is in the middle of Vietnam located next to a giant national park and the jungle. It is a tiny town, and sadly it’s getting more touristic every year. In the last few years more and more caves have been discovered – the biggest cave in the world is located here. It is so big that all of Manhattan including the skyscrapers could fit in. Other than that there are plenty of other caves to be discovered, and every year scientists find new caves. That’s why more and more tourists find the way to this place and the town looks more and more like a typical tourist city. 10 years ago, this region was one of the poorest in Vietnam and people are still not used to all these tourists. However, in 5 years this feeling won’t be there anymore as the city is growing extremely fast and hostels and Hotels overshadow the rest. So, if you want to visit this place and still get the history don’t wait too long.
Why I prefer Phong Nha
So why do I like Phong Nha more then Ninh Binh? Phong Nha is full of adventures and a lot of things you can do for at least 3 days. Ninh Binh is lovely but there is not too, much to do and I visited Ninh Binh in November where the rice was harvested already, at this time it looks entirely different than on the photos you may have seen. The green fields with the rice turned into brownfields. In Phong Nha, the caves are beautiful no matter what time of the year – it’s full of young people because at the moment only young backpackers as I do find the way to here – and the amount of adrenaline packed activities is way better in Phong Nha.
What to do in Ninh Binh?
Ninh Binh has the biggest temple complex in Vietnam, and there are almost no tourists. It’s about 30 km out of the city, and it’s a lot of walking (if you don’t take the electric car). The views, however, are amazing, and the temples are beautiful. There is no entrance fee, and you can spend a few hours there. In addition to that, I visited the Hang Mua mountain and hiked the way up. On top the view is breathtaking, and I heard the sunset is even better on there. I spent 2 whole days there, but in my option, that’s enough.
What to do in Phong?
In Phong Nha, however, I stayed for 4 full days in which I had activities for 3 entire days. The first day I was tired from the night bus, so I just did the Phong Nha Cave. Boats leave from the city of Phong Nha and bring you to the cave. After a tour of the cave, you get a little time to explore a part of the cave by yourself. In the Vietnam war, people were hiding in this cave, and the Americans couldn’t find them. In the night they came out and repaired the damage that the bombs from the Americans caused and during the day they disappeared again in the cave – for 10 years every day the same routine and nobody knew that they would exist.
The second day I rented a motorbike and headed to the dark cave, a cave full of activities and worth the 450.000 VND (16 Euro). With a 400-meter zip line, we arrived at the entrance of the cave and swam in. It’s completely dark inside, and we had an only light on our helmets to find the way. After a 10 minutes’ walk through a tight part of the cave, we arrived at the mud bath. We covered us in mud and returned to the bigger part of the cave. After leaving the cave, we took the kayak to go back to the base where they build a little waterpark. That was fun – Jumping and ziplining to the water were only two activities we could do.
The botanic garden is basically a trail through the jungle with a waterfall at the end where I could take a bath. I went with a friend, and we got lost a little bit – when the sign says “Stop” you should stop.. We ended up the other side of the mountain and had no clue where we have to go, after about one hour we then finally found the right path. Take the long trail, and you can experience the full jungle experience.
Duck stop and Farmstay
I think the Duck stop was definitely one of my favorite activities I did until now. For 150.000 VND you get the full experience. First, you can feed the ducks – there are about 100 – 150 ducks going crazy about the food – and you are in the middle. They eat out of your hand, from between your feet and if you run with the food they follow you which is so funny to watch. After that, you can ride a Vietnamese buffalo and to make it perfect, you get tasty food at the end. Definitely one of my favorites. To see the sunset, I went to the Farmstay – about 10 km out of town by bicycle – chilled at the pool with fruits, beer and met new people.
If you have enough time it’s worth doing both cities, if you’re under time pressure, you should skip Ninh Binh and visit Phong Nha instead.
- Total countries I visited until now: 29
- Distance traveled: 15899
- Planes: 4
- Busses: 17
- Trains: 12
- Boots: 4
- Km running: 641
- Drinks: 70