Info on independent travel to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Apr 29, 2013 6:00 AM Last Post By: bigfrog
Jul 9, 2012 9:58 AM
Info on independent travel to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National ParkSince there wasn't much information that I could find about travelling to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park on your own, I thought I will share what I know after doing it myself.
From Dong Hoi, you can get the 14:00 o' clock bus to Phong Nha town, also known as Son Trach (though it is better to just mention Phong Nha, as most people don't seem to know the alternative name). This bus doesn't leave from the main bus station, which is unfortunately staffed by cretins who won't be of any help to you at all. So don't even bother asking at the main bus station about buses to Phong Nha, they will tell you there aren't any. There are! You need to go to Nam Ly bus station which is the bus station for local destinations. Nam Ly is about 1km up the road from the main bus station (with up the road, I mean away from the centre, up D. Tran Hung Dao, and than about 50 meters to the right, there is a sign at the turn off). So from Nam Ly, there is one daily bus leaving at 14:00 and it should cost anywhere from 45000 to 50000 dong depending on what the driver feels like.
To get out of Phong Nha, there is at least one bus that leaves at 08:00 am in the morning back to Dong Hoi.
In Phong Nha town there are several guesthouses which all ask for 250000 dong for a room with bathroom and aircon, but they all go down easily to 200000 dong. We were with two, so probably as a single person you can get them down even further.
Unfortunately there isn't much of a restaurant scene, or lets put it this way, the restaurants all cater to the tour groups that come in during the day, with big and expensive set menu's. When coming alone their food offers poor value and it isn't especially good. In fact, I probably had my single worst meal in Phong Nha at one of the restaurants at the market. It is better to try and find a restaurant, or hole in the wall, that is not catering to the tour groups. This will be hard, but there is at least one, right next door to Phuong Nam Hotel, on the side as you come from the market. It has good and tasty noodles for 30000 dong.
To get around Phong Nha. You can rent bicycles, though we found the price extortionate. Or you can rent motorcycles, or you can get a guy to take you to where ever you want to go. The bicycles we rented were 4 dollars! It will take you a full day to get to the Paradise Caves and back. Not because they are that far away, but because you will have to negotiate a few hills to get there, the scenery is fantastic though, and I would highly recommend going by bike as long as you know that you will be scaling some hills. The Phong Nha Caves are right around the corner from the village, you need to take a boat from the jetty in the village and buy the ticket at the ticket office there. We didn't do it, because we heard Paradise Cave was better. Nuoc Mooc Eco-Trail is along the way to Paradise Cave depending on which route you take (there are two routes to Paradise Cave).
Well, that is it. Have fun!
Jul 11, 2012 4:53 AM
Jul 13, 2012 11:19 AM
2From the Phong Nha market,you can walk along the river bank up to the Phong Nha cave which takes 45 minutes.Once you walk across the bridge and arrive at the lighthouse,there is a jetty where a local lady rides the locals accross the river while rowing her tiny and funny wood boat .You must see the timeless scale made of tin that helps bikes go on the boat.Then ride this archaic boat accross the river to Phong Nha cave,from there you can climb the mountain up to the upper cave or if you are not feeling like climbing,you can walk along the cave up to the underground cave (which is not worthy ).So that you will have a nice look of the village and its villagers,plus the awsome scenery along the bank.
By far,Paradise cave is heaven on earth beside Phong Nha cave.But you should know that the villagers of Phong Nha live off tourism and their mainly income come from the boat cruise.They only make 250 k vnd/day which is 10 euros.So you can also cruise their boat from the dock next to the Xuân Sơn market to help them out.
This is what I would call an ecolo trip.
Jul 16, 2012 8:04 AM
3I thought Paradise Cave was worth the effort. Even if it hadn't been, the cycle trip to it was already amazing, the scenery is lovely. As you said, can't compare it to Phong Nha cave, so I won't be able to tell you if you have gone to Phong Nha cave whether or not you miss out on anything if you don't go to Paradise Cave.
Jul 18, 2012 6:31 AM
Aug 17, 2012 2:26 AM
5Thanks for the info.
As a result we are in Phong Nha right now :-)
We managed to get a bus from Hue (that was doing a day tour to the Phong Nha Cave) to drop us off in Phong Nha.
SOOOOO glad I read your post first otherwise I wouldn't have got the bus as I was looking for a place called Son Trach!! It cost us USD15 each in the end but we wouldn't have made it to Dong Hoi in time for the bus so would have had to spend on a hotel there. It took 5 hours direct (and yes people were doing this as a DAY TRIP - crazy!)
Tomorrow we head out on the Phong Nha cave trip, 80,000d to get into the cave 40,000d to get into Tien Son Cave and 350,000 for the boat hire.
Then we plan to hire bikes and head to Paradise Cave and the Eco Trail on Sunday.
On the off chance you see this post where did you hire your bikes?
Song Son hotel will say that want 350,000 a night but negotiate and they will come down esp if you are staing a couple of nights, we did find it hard to book in anywhere else as most of the reception desks were empty or being used as beds :-)
Thanks for the help - I am looking forward to my cave adventure
Apr 14, 2013 10:08 AM
I'm planning a trip to Vietnam this summer and I am definitely into visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang on my own.
I usually do not choose organised tours, but I try to organise and book on my own and from home the more things the better, so I can avoid searches and problems once there.
This is proving hard regarding Phong Nha Ke Bang.
For those who have visited this area on your own and slept in Phong Nha Town / Son Trach, how do they work the visits for the park once there? Is it possible to hire a guide to visit the caves or join a tour? I do not ride motorbikes, and I am not very sporty, so as to hire a bike and climb hills....
Another thing is that, apart from visiting Paradise Cave and maybe Phong Nha Cave, I would like to do some sightseeing on my own inside the park, not a hard trekking but a "nice walk". Is that possible?
Thanks a lot for your help!!!!
Apr 29, 2013 12:09 AM
7For Phong Nha you just walk to the visitors center and buy a ticket for the cave and the boat. I met two other western tourists and the lady at the ticket counter hooked us up with a few Vietnamese tourists that were wanting to share a boat as well.
For Paradise cave I rented a motorbike from one of the hotels for $10 (I know that's allot for Viet Nam but it's the going rate). To get to Paradise follow the road through town past the Phong Nha ticket office. That road leads to a intersection about 16km where you take a right at the huge billboard. Just went there today and even though there were quite literally about a thousand Vietnamese tourists it was quite spectacular.
Phong Nha and Paradise are two different caving experiences. Both are very popular with Vietnamese tourists but Phony Nha is awesome for the boat trip into the cave and Paradise is awesome for the epic size and condition of the cave.
Apr 29, 2013 12:13 AM
8Also to get to Phong Nha from Hue I went to one of the tourist offices and went with one of the tour groups leaving at 6:30am. I paid $16 for the ride, they dumped me in the middle of the main strip where the tour group was going to have lunch. Most companies want you to do the tour so just walk to a few of the tourist offices until you find one that will just take you to Phong Nha.
Apr 29, 2013 6:00 AM
9A decent restaurant that had an English menu is on the same road that ends at the boat dock but on the opposite side of the main road through town. It is in a building that says Veng Hue on it. The girls there even speak a little Ingrish.
Another one is just a few doors down from the Song Son hotel away from the Phony Nha ticket office.
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