Phong Nha Cave
What we say:
The cave system of Phong Nha park was discovered by a Frenchman in the late 19th century, with the magnificent Phong Nha cave being the first to be surveyed in 1990 by a team of cavers who recognised its tourism potential.
In 1992 the cave was given the title of the worlds longest river cave with a length of 7.729km and the first 600 meters of the cave was opened up for public viewing. It is only accessible by boat and features an underground river.
The caverns that are open to tourists are quite close to the mouth of the cave. Just as you enter, to the right, the boat puts out on a landing giving on to a set of stairs that leads to two caverns, or grottos. At 400 million years of age, these are some of the oldest limestone formations in the world.
The curiosities produced when water trickles slowly through limestone for eons are visible everywhere. Intricate stalactites, stalagmites and ground formations are on display everywhere -- it's truly an underground wonderland.
The first cave is called Court Cave (cung dinh) because the formations call to mind the king and his royal court, including elephants flanking the throne. It takes a bit of imagination, but it's not too much of a stretch. Further in the cave is Angel Cavern (tien) with a large grotto that looks like an angel. There's even a huge stalagmite that looks remarkably like Ho Chi Minh. Many of the grottos are lit with coloured lights, but otherwise the cave is not overdeveloped or altered, other than a good set of stairways and walkways.
In the dry season, you can reboard your boat and proceed further into the cave, just a few hundred metres, to the 'Stele' grotto (bi ky). It gets its name from the Cham characters that are still visible inscribed on the walls (which means they were here before the French, of course). It's the largest cavern, with a ceiling some 30 metres high. Many of the stalagmites and -tites were blackened by fire smoke when the cavern was used as a hospital during the war with America. If you visit the caves in the rainy season, the water will likely be too high to proceed this far into the cave, but the Court and Angel grottos are well worth the trip anyway.
There are tours aplenty, with most boats leaving from the river in Phong Nha town. It’s easy to do this independently by just turning up so don’t worry too much about pre-booking through your hotel. One last word however: most of these boat tours are run by the government and wages are low for the boatmen, so if you are going to tip anyone on your trip to Phong Nha, please tip them.
More detailsOpening Hours: Daily 06:30 to 16:00
Last updated: 26th November, 2013
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