After a not too bad night bus we arrived in dong hoi at 5:30am, an hour early than our arranged pick up from the farm stay. Luckily there was a car there already so we jumped in. We thought we were heading straight to the farm, instead we drove around in a circle for an hour and were back at where we had been picked up! It turned out we were waiting for some other girl who we were supposed to be picking up too but she never showed. So we eventually left and got to the farm stay. It’s set in a beautiful location, miles away from any town, all you can see around you are rice paddies and water buffalo. As we were there so early we were able to check in for a while, so we sat down and had some breakfast and chilled out for a few hours.
Eventually around midday we checked into our semi private dorm and decided to get straight in the pool! The rest of the day we spent lazing around relaxing until sunset where we headed up to the roof top to watch the sun set, it was so beautiful.
The next day we had booked onto the bike, boat and caves trip so we had to be up early. We had another great breakfast and then went out to choose our bikes and meet our guides. We started the trip with an 8k bike ride through the country side. It was a lovely morning and as we were cycling through, all the children were on there way to school and were running into the street shouting “hello” and trying to high five us. It was so cute! While we were cycling through the countryside we saw some really cool chilli plants where the chillies grow upwards rather than down!
After a while we got to the river where our boats were waiting for us. We were split into two groups and got into our boats. We were lucky enough to have the nice boat at the start, and our guide started telling us tones of great information about the Vietnam war as we started down the river to the first cave. After about an hour or so we arrived at the black cave where we all stripped into our swim stuff and got equips with he’s torches and life jackets. We made our way into the cave and quickly realised where it got its name from, as all the limestone inside the cave was black causing it to be pitch black inside. We took the scenic route on the way in, climbing through crevesis across muddy/sandy floor. After a short but slippery walk we came to an opening where we had to swim the rest of the way in the freezing water. I was very reluctant as I was still feeling so rough, but charlie convinced me and practically gave me a piggy back most of the way! The water was freezing and was pitch black so you couldn’t see what was swimming around with you, it certainly wasn’t my favourite experience! Eventually we found land so we all clambered out and huddled together. Our guide made us all turn our head touches off so we could see just how dark it was. It was completely pitch black, to the point where you couldn’t even see your own hand in front of your face!! After some information about the cave we swam back out again, this time with our touches off, but we took a more direct route so it didn’t take as long! Once we were out we got back in the boats and headed for lunch. Lunch was pretty good but not the best food we’ve had. When everyone had finished it was back in the boats to head to our next cave, this time we swapped boats and you could defiantly tell the difference! After a very noisy and smokey journey we got to our next cave. This one was way bigger, so much so that we could actually take the boat some of the way in! We got out and had a look around while our Vietnamese guide explained all the different stories behind different parts of the limestone. For example, one part of the limestone up high looked like a person looking into a mirror, and he explained that the Vietnamese believed that this was where fairies lived and got changed, hence the person looking in the mirror. We also came to two giant stalic tites and stalic nights that met in the middle creating two giant pillars, our guide told us that the Vietnamese believed if you touched both pillars and walked through the middle of them you would then meet your husband or wife. There were lots of cool stories and beliefs like these that he told us the whole way round. After about an hour or so we made our way back to the entrance where we jumped back in the boats and went back to our bikes to cycle back to the farm. The cycle back was just as lovely as the stale there as this time all the children were on there way home from school. The kids were so excited to see us, it really was the cutest thing!
That evening charlie and I were shattered so we had an early dinner and got chatting to the lovely Nadia who we arranged to hang out with the next day.
The next morning we planned on getting up super early to head down to phong nah cave as we had been told we really shouldn’t miss it while we were here. However after an hour or so of snoozing it didn’t end up being quite that early! Charlie and I decided to just get motor bike taxis down there as we didn’t feel like doing another all day tour again, and we were very glad we did. The ride was amazing! It went right through the national park and had the most amazing views. We arrived and paid for the bus which we though was going to take us to the cave entrance. However this was not the case and was pretty much a big waste of money as all it did was drive us two mins down the road to where you start the HUGE climb up to the cave! I’m really not exaggerating when I say it took us at least 40mins to get to the top of this frigging hill where the entrance to the cave was! We were both dripping with sweat and feeling like we were going to die, but when we got inside the cave it was worth it. It was about 10 times the size of the caves we had seen the day before, and we had thought they were big! It was also all lit up with little spot lights making it look even prettier! There was a set walk way which we walked all the way to the end of before heading back. After a quick ice cream we started the long decent back down and the ride back to the farm.
When we got back we met up with Nadia and were supposed to go straight to “the pub with cold beer” but charlie an I were exhausted! We sat around for a while and chilled before deciding that if we were going to go we should get motor bike taxis rather than trying to cycle there. We left and after one bike breaking down we got there. Sadly we were pretty disappointed, there was no chicken left which was the main reason we had gone down, no river to swim in and no village surrounding it! We stayed for a drink anyway and ordered some noodles before heading back. That night we met James and a group of others and spend the evening chatting away and having a chilled one.
We sadly had to leave the farm stay the next day, but we had had the most amazing time there and would recommend it to anyone! We took a mini bus from the farm that went via the vinmock tunnels down to hue.
The tunnels were crazy! The history behind them is that during the war the local town got sick of being bombed so they decided to more the whole town underground. They lived down there for 6 years, all 400 and something villagers. 14 babies were born down there and not a single person died. The tunnels have 3 different levels, one was 12meters down, the second was 15 meters down and the third was 23 meters down. They had one toilet. Each family of four was given a 2×2 meter square to live in.
We were given a guide to show us around, it was all so crazy/interesting. It’s mad how these poor people had to live. But the important thing is that everyone survived, and all the babies that were born in the tunnels still live in the local area. After we had been down around the tunnels we went to a museum that explained more about the war before carrying on to hue.