Photo: Entering the cave by boat.

Bong Lai Valley

Our rating:

The Phong Nha region’s quaint and pretty pastoral scenery is fantastic for exploring on two wheels, be it by motorbike or sturdy mountain bike. The vast, unwaveringly flat rice fields are sharply contrasted with rolling hills and towering karst. A great ride for fresh air and countryside is through the Bong Lai Valley, which has several charming, rustic watering holes along the way. Credit goes to Phong Nha Farmstay for putting this valley on the map and for encouraging tourists to come here.

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Peace and tranquility.

The road to Bong Lai Valley runs south off Ho Chi Minh Highway East. The turnoff is six kilometres east of town – if you’ve come to a petrol station and the road for Pepper House Homestay, you’ve gone too far.

The dirt road flirts with the edges of a river and offers lovely views of farmland, the river valley and rolling hills.

Bridge over untroubled water.

Bridge over untroubled water.

After two kilometres on your left is the utterly charming Duck Stop, belonging to the family of Mr Quynh (pronounced “Queen”), an entrepreneurial 16-year-old. Though his English is limited, he’s very proud of his farm and wants travellers to come sample what’s in season. If he’s home from school, he’ll happily show you the pepper plants that the region is famous for or explain how rice is grown. He has high hopes for creating a place travellers can enjoy, so stop in, help him practise English, buy some local fruit, a drink or a packet of good black pepper.

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Plucky, picture-perfect pepper plants.

Continuing on another kilometre is Pub with Cold Beer – you can’t miss it, as signs herald its eminent arrival the whole way. Once upon a time, Ben of Phong Nha Farmstay rode through the Bong Lai Valley and stopped at a hut with a pool table. He jokingly asked for a cold beer (a cold drink was unheard of in the province back then), and to his surprise Mrs Nhat actually served him a chilled beer. From then on it was christened “Pub with Cold Beer.” After some serious scientific research, we can confirm that they do indeed serve cold beer.

Perched on a rise in the land and with a picturesque vista of the river valley, the pub is a great hangout spot. Pass the hours in a hammock or swimming in the river (they rent inner tubes) while waiting for your lunch — a delicious whole chicken. Fresh chicken is killed to order and should you wish, you can do the entire process yourself: killing, plucking and eviscerating — there’s no other daintier way of describing it. If you’ve never seen a chicken slaughtered, it’s a real opportunity to learn what it takes for wholesome food to reach your plate. Whether you choose to try your hand at it or want to leave it up to the professionals, keep in mind the whole process takes 1.5 hours, so don’t arrive starving.

Happy, healthy, farm-fresh free-range chickens.

Happy, healthy, farm-fresh free-range chickens.

Finally, continue down along into the valley for Wild Boar Eco Farm, another rustic river spot serving freshly cooked pork and cold drinks. When we visited Bong Lai, rain in the night meant the road was a slick muddy mess and it was too treacherous to get there. We’re told in dry season the water is a gorgeous blue-green ideal for swimming and there are plenty of hammocks to laze in at the river’s edge.


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Phong Nha.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Phong Nha.
 Read up on how to get to Phong Nha, or book your transport online with Baolau.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Phong Nha? Please read this.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

See below for more sights and activities in Phong Nha that are listed on

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Phong Nha? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.

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