The little town is terrible, the food is mediocre, and my guesthouse is an overpriced dump. But I didn’t come to Phong Nha to hang around the town.

A few years ago the world’s largest cave was discovered deep in Phong Nha National Park. It’s just starting to be opened to tourism, but at a steep price. For $3,000 you can go on a six day camping expedition inside the huge cave. It looks incredible, but that’s a bit out of my price range. I would visit the much cheaper Paradise Caves instead.

The rice fields of Phong Nha.
The rice fields of Phong Nha.

Phong Nha is set among beautiful rice fields and limestone cliffs. I planned to ride a bike around the countryside tomorrow. But today I would ride my motorbike through the park towards the Lao border.

On the way I stopped at the “Eco Trail.” Maybe this would be fun with a group. They have swimming, rafting, zip lines, and lounging and snacking options. But by myself it was a waste of money. The scenic trail was very short. I wasn’t interested in doing any of the other activities by myself.

I rode on to Paradise Caves. I’m not a cave enthusiast, and was really only visiting because I was in the home of the world’s largest cave, and I simple had to see at least one cave. I wasn’t expecting to have to climb a mountain to get in the cave. But once inside, it was really good. While not the world’s largest cave, it was quite big, with many weird rock formations. It was tastefully lit, and there weren’t too many people.

Fields and tacky sign.
Fields and tacky sign.

After lunch and a nap, I continued towards Laos. The road went straight through Phong Nha National Park. But it was mostly through forest at the bottom of the valleys, so there weren’t many good views. Still, it was a quiet, peaceful ride.

It was very remote, with no towns, and no traffic. 15 km from the border I came to a closed gate. A small village was was on the other side, and locals rode right through. But a very young soldier didn’t let me go on. So I headed back to town.

There are some interesting cemeteries outside of town.
There are some interesting cemeteries outside of town.
And many new churches.
And many new churches.
I went down into Paradise Cave.
I went down into Paradise Cave.
Not the biggest, but still pretty big.
Not the biggest, but still pretty big.
There were many weird rock formations.
There were many weird rock formations.
The lighting was tasteful.
The lighting was tasteful.
The ceiling loomed far overhead.
The ceiling loomed far overhead.
I admired the rocks.
I admired the rocks.
Then I headed towards Laos.
Then I headed towards Laos.
I was spoiled after yesterday, but there were some nice views.
I was spoiled after yesterday, but there were some nice views.
There were mountains in the distance.
There were mountains in the distance.
On the way back to town I passed an unfinished highway to nowhere.
On the way back to town I passed an unfinished highway to nowhere.
I wondered where this road went.
I wondered where this road went.
I passed brown fields.
I passed brown fields.
I rode back to town along the river.
I rode back to town along the river.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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