Phong Nha is located between Tam Coc/Ninh Binh and Hué, making it a great stop in between! The town doesn’t have a lot going on as it’s literally just one long strip but there’s a ton to see around it! Hiring bikes or getting an easy rider are pretty much essential here as nothing is in walking distance unfortunately!
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What to Do
Visit the National Park –
The strip itself is about a 20 minute ride (on a scooter) to the National Park. Within the park are a ton of things to do; caves, jungle treks, waterfalls, wildlife to see, you name it! It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever had the pleasure of driving around! If you’re not keen on driving a scooter, most hostels in Phong Nha offer easy riders (you hire a driver to take you around) so that’s worth a look at. The park itself is quite mountainous, providing a ton of spots where you’ll want to pull over just to admire the beauty. Something we found interesting were the pockets of cool air we’d drive passed while on the trail, they were strange! We’ll go over the activities within the park below but this is a must visit!
Jungle Trek/Waterfall –
After doing a 6 hour jungle trek in Chiang Mai, this was a welcome reprieve as it only takes about 2 hours. There’s no doubt in our minds that the jungle was awe-inspiring, with great viewpoints, natural pools & wildlife scattered around it. The best sight were the monkey which were behind a sanctuary fence to protect them from people getting too close (they were TOO cute)! Parts of the trek can be very slippery & steep so a good pair of trainers is a must to tackle it! You can take either a longer route (3 hours) or a shorter route (2 hours) with the only difference being that you miss out one pool if you choose the shorter. The waterfall is really scenic & actually quite high, making the climb a little dangerous! There’s some ropes along the way to help out though, make sure you use them. Two man-made platforms are at the top & a big Phong Nha sign to congratulate your efforts. Do it!!!
Dark Cave –
So we didn’t get to do this as time was really tight for us & we had other things we had to see more in Phong Nha, We did our research though and the cave had mud-baths & zip-lines, plus it was bloody massive! A big drawback about this was that it costs a shit ton, prices starting from 400,000 Dong for a ticket. You can spend a lot of your day here though as we met someone who did exactly that & said it was great! Definitely worth looking into if you have money to spare & feeling adventurous!
The Duck Stop! –
Genuinely the happiest place we found during all our travels. The MVP of attractions in Phong Nha, no questions! It’s a 45 min drive from the main strip but worth every second. The reason it’s so special of course is because of all the adorable ducks. They live in a sanctuary where they’re cared for and can quack to their hearts content! You pay a tiny price upon arrival and get to play with & feed an army of the little feathered angels. We can’t explain in words just how happy we were getting to care for them and the joy we felt when throwing their feed at our feet then watching 50+ ducks charging towards us. One of the best days of our lives! Lunch is included within the experience price & was delicious (it wasn’t duck, don’t worry)! Please buy a T-Shirt or two and help fund this magical little haven!
Bong Lai Valley/Giant Swing Homestead –
This is actually real close to the Duck Stop so we recommend doing them on the same day. It’s a really cute little home & farm owned by a lovely Vietnamese family who serve drinks & food to people who visit. There are some GREAT views here, a massive reinforced swing and a little stream below which you can cool down in (Phong Nha is mad tropical). Obviously the food & drinks come at a price, as does the swing but nothing is expensive. One of the best things about this homestead is the family themselves, we were speaking with them for a while before we did anything else! It’s a serene spot to forget the stresses of travelling life at. Go visit (and get a Vietnamese Drip Coffee)!
Phong Nha Itinerary
2 full days if all you really need in Phhong Nha in our opinion. While there’s some great stuff there, it can be crammed into a short time. Get your bus out of there on the 3rd day and see more of Vietnam!
Phong Nha – Day 1:
Arrive from Tam Coc (this may be early morning so make sure to check your hostel will let you in at that time). We’d recommend Motorvina for this as they checked us in at 4am for a small charge of 30,000 Dong pp (£1). Sleep for a few hours then get some breakfast & hire bikes to start exploring. We say drive around the National Park to get a feel for the area & fit in the Dark Cave and/or Waterfall Trek. You’ll probably be tired that evening from the night bus so take it easy.
Phong Nha – Day 2:
Wake up for breakfast then hire bikes again for the day. Visit the Duck Stop (45 min drive each way) and have some lunch there too. After that go to Bong Lai Valley Homestead for some fun on the giant swing & a dip in the river. On the evening, come back to the main strip in Phong Nha & grab some food (and a few drinks if you fancy) at Central Backpackers.
Phong Nha – Final Day:
Chill out & prepare for your bus to Hué (we recommend going for the 11-12am bus as you’ll arrive around 6pm).
Was it Expensive?
Phong Nha was cheap for food & accommodation but expensive for some activities. The Dark Cave is very pricey for what it is but worth it if you’re looking for adventure! We say you can miss it though as there’s plenty of other stuff like it in Vietnam. The Duck Stop & Homestead was a real cheap day out, we spent about 250,000 Dong (£8) each for the whole trip out.
How to Get There
You can only really get a bus from Tam Coc (which comes at awkward times) and it’s a long journey. You’ll set off around 7pm & arrive at 4am so make sure to contact your hostel to see if they you can check-in early! You can of course ride there from Tam Coc on scooters too but we wouldn’t recommend it, the bus ride was bumpy af! The bus was only about 200,000 Dong pp (£6-7) so nothing too pricey!
We hope this guide has been helpful for you. If you like this post, please check out our guide to Tam Coc as it has a similar vibe to Phong Nha! https://maktravels.co.uk/2020/08/06/tam-coc/
So that wraps up our post on Phona Nha, a beautiful place that we strongly encourage you to visit! Don’t forget to check out our socials below!
Stay Safe & Much Love,
Matt & Mik
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