Why We Fell In Love with Phong Nha
So technically, this post is about 2 things: the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, and Quảng Bình, the province we stayed in. We never heard anyone refer to either of those things; rather, everyone called the entire area Phong Nha (pronounced “phone-nya” as far as I can tell). Pete’s cousin recommended this place and we are once again so happy with his recommendation. We absolutely loved our 2 nights here and definitely could’ve stayed longer! Here are some reasons you should visit Phong Nha on your journey through Vietnam.
1. Natural Beauty
After seeing some pretty incredible sites in Vietnam (Lan Ha Bay, Ninh Binh), we weren’t sure how the rest of our trip could keep up. As our cab from Dong Hoi drove past the sign on the mountain and into the tiny city we stayed in Phong Nha, however, we knew we were in for a treat.
This Unesco World Heritage Site is so beautiful that I almost wish we could keep it to ourselves (but alas, I love sharing with you all ;). We spent a day motorbiking around the area and I couldn’t stop gawking and taking photos.
2. Small Town Feel
The town where you’ll stay to explore Phong Nha is extremely small. Like, literally one street. This makes it very easy to plan where to stay, as there’s not really such a thing as a bad location. If you’re social at all, you’ll more than likely bump into familiar faces. This was really fun for us, since it’s not often we get to hang out with the same people twice while on the road.
3. Cheap Accommodation
We stayed at Thuong Hai hotel and highly recommend it.
It was $36 total for 2 nights in a brand new room with great air conditioning, wifi, and even a decent free breakfast. It also had a very convenient location: right across from Easy Tiger, the hostel that serves as the main “backpacker hang-out” of the area.
Search for available hotels in the area here:
4. Restaurant Selection
For such a small town, this place has a diverse selection of restaurants. Not only is the food delicious, it’s cheap, too!
As major foodies, this was a huge plus. We loved Tuan Ngoc (pictured above) and Bamboo cafe (pictured below).
5. Backpacker Vibes
Going along with the “small town feel,” it’s really easy to make friends here. The town definitely feels like a backpacker town, filled with energetic, adventure-seeking travelers (our favorite kind!). There’s pretty much one bar everyone hangs out at (Easy Tiger), making socializing extremely convenient. Despite the growing tourism here, the tourism scene feels relatively organic and seems to mesh well with the local life, which was a welcome change from the commercialized Cat Ba.
6. Ease of Travel
As most places in Vietnam, it’s absurdly easy to rent a motorbike here. We actually rented a motorbike for the first time here and it was totally doable!
This was a great place for us (well, Pete) to motorbike as beginners. There aren’t many motorbikes on the roads compared to other cities (I’m lookin at you, Hanoi & Saigon), and the caves/attractions are fairly well marked.
If you get lost, I’m sure you won’t mind with all the gorgeous scenery around.
Not only that, but it only cost 80,000 VND (<$4) to rent a bike for the day!
Actually getting to the town is fairly simple. You can either train to Đong Hới and take a 40 minute taxi or a 90 minute bus into town, or take a bus directly there.
7. Good Stopping Point
From a practical point of view, Phong Nha makes a good stopping point whether you’re traveling north or south through Vietnam. By stopping here, we avoided a 12+ hour journey from Ninh Binh to Hoi An.
8. Endless Activities, Especially Caving
I can’t talk about Phong Nha without mentioning the caves. With 300 caves, including the largest one in the world, Phong Nha is a caver’s paradise.
As we mentioned above, we think motorbiking is the best way to explore the nearby caves: Paradise Cave & Dark Cave. We each spent about $30 for the day, including the bike, gas, and entrance fees to both caves. We think it was absolutely worth it. You’ll be blown away by the size and beauty of Paradise cave, and you’ll have a blast zip-lining into the Dark Cave and floating in a crazy mud bath.
If motorbiking isn’t your thing, you can join an organized tour of both those caves for a bit more money (about twice as much). These tours were being offered literally everywhere and cost around $60 per person.
If you have more time (and more money), you should definitely consider an overnight tour of some of the lesser known caves. Easy Tiger hostel offers a wide array of tours. Travelfish has a great review on their experience in the Hang En cave.
Enjoy the article? Pin it!
Have you been to Phong Nha? If so, did you love it as much as we did? Have you found any other gems like this place? Let us know!