Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, if you’ve never heard of this name, it’s home to the world’s largest cave Son Doong together with spectacular cave networks that located in the central province of Quang Binh, Vietnam.
On our first ever trip to Phong Nha, we were stunned by the amazing landscapes and friendliness of people in the area. It’s surprising to know the region has just become an up-and-coming destination after the recent discovery and exploration of caves just 2 decades ago. From a sleepy town, Phong Nha at the moment is undergoing a great change along with the development of tourism.
Since we just had 2 days in the area, choosing from which tours or activities to do is a hard decision to make. Eventually, we decided to join a caving-trekking day tour on our first day and second day biking around Bong Lai valley. Out of many options offered by the host of our homestay, we picked the newly-launched tour called Hang Vom One Day Challenge with 14km jungle trekking.
Coming to the town at this time of the year, probably it’s not really the best time, luckily the weather on the day we did the tour was quite alright. We were the first ones got picked up by a friendly guide at the homestay then three more companions joined us afterwards. As I mentioned, Hang Vom was advertised like the newest one in town; therefore, only 5 of us being on the tour that day which was pretty nice. As a matter of fact, these kinds of caving tours in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park just run exclusively by certain licensed assigned companies. For that reason, just 5 of us, our tour guide and 3 other local porters and cook in the jungle on that day.
After picking up everyone, the van drove us around the park and we could see amazing nature with jungle-clad limestone mountains while our guide was telling us some background information of the national park and tour itinerary. The jungle in Phong Nha looked so dense from afar as it was coated by countless vines like a thick carpet of green moss.
The drive took around 45 minutes and we finally got to the trailhead where the journey began. The first 1 kilometer as the guide said, was quite challenging and tricky with rocky terrain that got us sweating a lot. Fortunately, after that challenging part, we were greeted with a nice and flat jungle-path. On the way, there were some look-out points where the guide stopped and took pictures for us. The short stream-crossing part where we literally walking through branches of a tree and boulders was our highlight of the trek though it was a bit scary to be honest. Our guide told us that during the dry season, the water would get much lower and people could walk across the stream easily.
After roughly 2 hours of trekking, we eventually got to the so-called basecamp near by the caves where we later had a nice BBQ lunch prepared by our cook after seeing the dry cave. The lunch was pretty tasty, we had grilled pork and chicken that freshly brought by the porters together with tofu, breads, rice, some salad, veggies and some rice papers to make your freestyle spring-rolls. My husband really liked the home-made sauce called ‘cheo’ which was told by our guide a specialty of Phong Nha.
Of course, the caves were the main reason we decided to join the tour and what we expected to see the most after a long trek. We got to see the ‘dry cave’ first, for some ‘cave-virgin’ said by our funny guide, like us, it was fulfilling with unreal stalactites and stalagmites that seemingly created by aliens. After the lunch, we were told to get changed and put life-jackets on to go swimming in the ‘river cave’. In our opinion together with the approval of 3 others, this was the highlight of the tour.
The ‘river cave’ has a huge entrance and we got to climb down some ladders before entering the ‘freezing’ water. We knew the water inside caves is supposed to be cold but never thought it was that cold. Our guide encouraged us to get in and take a dip and it would get warmer as we swim further in, and he didn’t lie to us. As we swimming further in, our bodies started getting used to with the temperature and we were just fine. While easing my body into the cold water, I gotta distract myself from what might be swimming underneath us since the cave depth is somewhat between 50-70 meters told by the guide. As we followed the guide further into Hang Vom’s interior, slowly left behind all sunlight, the darkness started covering the rest of the cave and we could hear sounds of bats and birds flying around along with the sound of water raving like a waterfall. We eventually got to the ending-point where the current was super strong and some rocks blocked our way. We were told to turn off our headlights and all we were left with was darkness and the sound of water splashing kept continuing that gave me an adrenalin rush. After a few minutes, we lay on our back and let the current float us back out. Oh, and it’s a such a mistake to not mention the breathtaking view you could see when looking back to the entrance while swimming that I believed no cameras could do it justice.
After the exhilarating swim inside the river cave, we packed our belongings and made our way back. Our least favourite part of this tour was probably the route on the way back was pretty much the same with 7km jungle trekking when were a bit out of energy because of the earlier swim. With some rests on the way, everyone was fine and we all made it back safe and sound. We were greeted with a cold beer/soft drink by the road before coming back to our accommodation in Phong Nha.
Like I said, there were many tour options for travelers like us in Phong Nha and we believed each tour has its own features and beauty, and with the experience we got from Hang Vom One Day Challenge, we can totally recommend this one. Phong Nha was probably the highlight of our entire trip in Vietnam and we would definitely come back there again to explore it thoroughly.
Lots of folks are surprised when coming to Phong Nha since the town is not only noticed for its booming tourism but other impressions of the land lies along peaceful Son River.
Turning left from Ho Chi Minh East at Xuan Son junction on the way from Dong Hoi, stunning Phong Nha town slowly unveils itself behind overlapping peaks of karst mountains.
Phong Nha town (photo: Internet)
Modernity has come to the town with cutting edge accommodation, restaurants alongside colorful lights on the main street at nights, but what makes it unique and charming are spectacular nature creations of the world; or simply small paths full of paddy rice fields along, herds of cows and buffalos and the sound of red scarves’ coming home from schools.
Right from that town, every weekends, church bells ring a special sound the “Phong Nha Ding Dong’.
Interesting fact: the majority of Phong Nha residents (which is more than 80%) are Catholics. Every Saturday and Sunday, everyone goes to the church. Thursday’s afternoon is time going to church for youngsters. The Shabbat is a day blessed by God and set aside for rest and worship.
Ha Loi, Xuan Tien and Gia Hung are some main church in the surrounding of Phong Nha with typical architecture and where to hold prayer and confession for the townsfolk.
Ha Loi Church - Photo: Internet
Gia Hung Church - Photo: Thao Dang
Today, most of people in the town are working in tourism and faithfully believing in God. They pray before every meal for peace and happiness. While wandering or biking around meandering roads, tourists might all of a sudden hear the sound from church bell ringing intertwining with the sound of nature right in the heart of Phong Nha.
Phong Nha at this time of the year, when summer has passed for a few months, gets back to its natural state with restful, unbusy atmosphere, together with misty and chilly climate. Lies on the other side of the river, Na village for that reason has less boats following one another. However, the church bell is likewise ding-donging every weekends and sometimes during weekdays. In December, when Christmas and new year is around the corner, people often decorate caves made of straws and palm leaves at church or in their own house to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Phong Nha, other than world-famous caves, has lots of distinctive characteristics in its culture. If you are planning to come to this wonderful land, be sure to stay long enough and experience the area thoroughly.
Ozo Treetop Park is situated in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Son Trach Commune, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province – Central Vietnam. This is the first park in the area with a complex of various adventurous activities both on treetop and water.
+ Location: Ozo Treetop Park is situated on Highway 20 Victory and bordered by Tra Ang river to the East and South. The place is 12km far from center of Phong Nha and 26km far from Ho Chi Minh West.
[Far from Dark cave/Mooc Spring 10km, far from Paradise cave 7km]
Ozo Treetop Park is approximately 5 hectares. It is the first park situated inside primary forest and has the longest complex of treetop adventure activities in Vietnam. The park has a rich biological diversity of flora and fauna, characterized by the limestone-based ecosystems.
What to do at Ozo Treetop Park:
- Visit 1 km wooden walkway around Ozo stream to behold serene sight with many different types of plants and take beautiful pictures.
- Challenge yourself with treetop zipline and 16 high rope & obstacle courses (average height from 5-7m)
- Enjoy kayak rides and experience SUPing on Ozo stream
The park is designated into 5 main areas: treetop adventure for adults, treetop adventure for kids, water-sports on Ozo stream, camping zone and restaurants.
+ Come to Ozo Treetop Park, tourists can experience treetop high rope & obstacle course, treetop zipline and water sports on Ozo stream together with local specialty served at Ozo restaurants. The park is a suitable place for all walks of life from adventurous ones to families.
Adventure games list:
– Monkey Bridge
– Hanging step
– Hanging log
– Flying fox
– Flying Skateboard
– Flying Carpet
– Hanging Loop
– Ring Swing
– Aerial walk
– Sky Bridge
– Sky Step
– Spider Web Challenge
– Vine Walk
– Tarzan Web Swing
1. Ozo Experience
2. Ozo Kayaking
3. Ozo Wading
4. Conquering Ozo Cave
What to bring:
What to expect:
9:00 AM: Meet up and brief at Ozo Treetop Park
9:30 AM - 10:00 AM: Start trekking along So Dua stream to reach to Ozo cave
10:00 AM -10:15 AM: Prepare gear for caving
10:15 AM -12:15 AM: Conquering Ozo cave
12:15 AM -12:45 AM: Trekking back to the park from the exit of the cave
12:45 AM -1:15 PM: Lunch time
1:15 PM - 4:00 PM: Visit the park and take on action-packed challenges
4:30 PM - 5:00 PM: Finish tour
Ozo Restaurants are located on the other side of Ozo Park with 2 sections: Upper Ozo and Lower Ozo. The stilt house complex is next to Ozo Stream. Ozo restaurants offer guests local specialty to regain energy after exhausted but fun journeys at Ozo Park. The restaurants serve local food
– Grilled Chicken
– Grilled Pork
– Steamed shrimps
– Deep fried fish
– Grilled Beef in betel leaf
– Fried fish balls
– Sticky Rice
OZO TREETOP PARK INFORMATION
Address: Son Trach commune, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province
Managed by Phong Nha Heritage