Wednesday, May 27, 2015
We arrived in Phong Nha around 5:30 am. Unlike my last overnight bus ride, I actually managed to get a couple hours of sleep on the bus, but I still needed a little shut eye, so once we checked into out hotel I took a quick power nap until around 8 am.
After breakfast we piled into the van and headed to our first stop, 8 Ladies Cave (Hang Tám Cô). When we get to the sacred area we sat around and listened to Johnny as he expertly explained the significance of the temple.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a crucial logistical system that ran from North Vietnam to South Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia. Johnny explained that while the men were fighting, young women (and men) were working to help build the trail/road in order to help the war effort. During a bomb raid in 1972, 8 women working on the trail and 4 soldiers stationed in the area took shelter in a cave. As the bombs dropped an extremely large rock broke off and completely blocked the entrance of the cave. People in the area, the witnesses, could hear their screams for help, but there was nothing that could be done. By the 9th day, the cries for help had stopped. It wasn’t until 1996, when the remains of the women and men were removed for proper burial. Today, the cave has become one of the most sacred and important war memorial sites in Vietnam. The site, Highway 20 War Martyrs Temple, is to commemorate all the civilians, especially women, who aided in the war effort.
Leaving the sacred site, we drove to Paradise Cave (Thien Duong Cave) in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Please read rule 5…. my goodness
Entering the park, Johnny led us towards the golf carts….what!?! We didn’t need to hike??
Getting off the golf cart (buggy) I was SO EXCITED to see the cave, then Johnny said,
Ok, we have 500 m walk to the top!
Um, yeah. The entrance of the cave was at the very top of the mountain. Also, 500 m my a**, maybe as the crow flies, but that hike up the mountain was WAY longer than 500 m. Once you finally reach the entrance you start the feel cool breezes. The cool air was coming from the cave! Thank goodness!
The cave was amazing. Check it out…
My favorite shot:
My mistakes….but they some of them looked kind of cool…
We walked about 1 K in, but the entire system is 31 K long! So big!
Leaving the cave, this guy posed for me 🙂
All this walking made me hungry! We had lunch in the middle of the park along a river with water coming from the mountain.
After lunch, and a power nap, it was time to SWIM. We didn’t want to wear life-jackets, so Johnny took us on quite a hike to reach the most secluded pool.
AH-MAY-ZING. My jaw literally dropped when we got to the spring. My photos DO NOT do it justice!
Sweating, I immediately jumped in the water, and holy smokes was it cold! The drastic change in temperature made my underwater-camera foggy, but here are some shots….
I was the only one who had shoes for the water, so I was the only one who followed Johnny through the falls. I fell, A LOT, like almost every other step, but it was so much fun. He took me to where the water from the mountain enters the river, and then showed me how to ride the current back down. No matter how many times I fell, following Johnny on that little adventure was so much fun.
Not as many photos…I was pretty focused on finding stable rocks to walk on…
The spring pool is literally one of the coolest experiences of my life.
Heading out of the park…
Feeling INCREDIBLY refreshed it was time for happy hour at “The Pub with Cold Beer”.
This little girl wanted to open all of our cans 🙂
Sunset on the way to dinner…
Dinner at the Phong Nha Farmstay.
Writing this, I am sitting in a coffee shop with a fan beamed directly at me, dreaming of being back in Phong Nha swimming in that cold fresh water pool….
Take me back!
I wonder if anything on Day 4-7 will be able to trump Day 3 🙂
Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette