It was on a night out playing ping pong in London that I first heard about Phong Nha. Eager to take on any recommendations, I wrote down the name in a hope to visit (obviously spelt incorrectly). It has by far been the best recommendation I’ve received so far on this trip.
The little town of Phong Nha is an up and coming area for tourists. During the Vietnam war it was the connecting point between the North and Southern rebels (against the Americans) to send supplies. Because of this, it was the most bombed area in the whole of Vietnam. Even today, they are still finding and defusing bombs by the hundreds thanks to an organisation called Mines Advisory Group (MAG).
This is one of the reasons I loved Phong Nha. Not because of the horror that took place, but the rich history which they aren’t shying away from. I learnt so much and even heard incredible stories about a few of the locals still alive today.
The other reason I enjoyed Phong Nha was because of the activities it had to offer. The first of which was a bicycle ride with a group of people I met to a place called The Duck Stop. It’s become a tourist checkpoint because the owner has trained his pet ducks to take certain commands, which he teaches to his guests. Cool hey!
So that was the original plan, but after cycling for two hours in mud up to our knees because my maps.me app took us the wrong way 🙈, we sadly missed The Duck Stop and instead arrived at what was going to be our second port of call, A Pub With A Cold Beer (that’s its name 😉). Believe it or not, the restaurant has been featured in both the Guardian and Huffington Post. This is because it’s unlike anywhere else you can eat. You pick your chicken, you kill it, then it gets cooked on a BBQ for you to eat with supposedly the best peanut sauce in the world. A few of the people I was with did kill and eat one of the chickens, but wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was however interesting interacting with the children, it was so normal to them, you’d arrive and they’d ask ‘do you want to kill a chicken’. One of the daughters even decided to come and sit with me (on me) playing with my phone…The evening was chilled as I ate dinner and then played cards with two cool American siblings and a Canadian guy I had met earlier that day. They taught me a game called Shithead.
Monday 27th Friday
Other than hiking in Sa Pa, my adventure on the Monday was my favourite day in Vietnam. I decided to splash out and pay for a Jungle Boss tour – I mean even the name sounds cool.
It started on a high as I had muesli, yoghurt and fruit for breakfast 😍. I was then picked up and taken to the phenomenal Paradise Cave. We then visited the 8 ladies cave and war martyr memorial, which was built to honour those who lost their lives in this area during the war. The cave itself, sadly saw eight young Vietnamese people get trapped following a US bomb raid. Unfortunately they didn’t survive, despite their friends trying to free them. This was followed by a very muddy trek through the jungle and the MOST incredible lunch.
After lunch, we went for a swim in and around a cave, which in total took just over 45 minutes. I wish I had photos, however I still don’t trust my waterproof phone bag. On the trek back through the jungle I was so happy with myself for not slipping over. But it was very short lived.
The evening quickly spiraled out of control as I met three American guys Jason, Nick, Robert and one Brit Vinnie. We ended up playing pool and drinking beer in Andy’s Bar until 2am eeekkk.
Tuesday 28th February
The morning after the night before was very chilled. The hostel, Easy Tiger, was a great place for socialising, however to sleep it was too noisy. I’m not too sure why they needed to hammer at 6am 🙈.
More pool was played with my Australian and American roommates – Georgia and Harrison, before they headed off on their bikes to Hue, where we planned to meet up again.
In the afternoon I explored the Phong Nha cave with the guys I had met. It was here that the Vietnamese northern fighters hid their cargo in the daytime, before transporting over the river during the nighttime. The Americans eventually clocked onto their tactics and ended up bombing the cave, which you can quite clearly see. Supposedly even Ho Chi Min ate dinner there!The evening was chilled as I had a 4am bus ride the following morning to my next destination. I did however have a new travel buddy in tow, Vinnie, who planned to accompany me on the next part of my adventure.
Jessica Storm ✌️