Ninh Binh & Phong Nha National Park

I’m only halfway through of my Vietnam adventure and I feel like I’ve already uploaded a million photos!

My friend and I hadn’t planned on going to Ninh Binh, but our bus stopped there for about 5 hours, giving us some time to take a shower and reorganize ourselves. I’m super bummed we didn’t research this town more because apparently we missed one of the best sights in all of Vietnam! Always do a little bit of research before you stop in a town. This lesson was learned the hard way. Still, the sights we did see were beautiful.

We only stopped in Ninh Binh because we were actually on our way to another location: Phong Nha. This is a beautiful national park known for its caves. We arrived in Phong Nha at around 3 in the morning, slept for about 4 hours, and then woke up to start our day with a quick breakfast. I can’t speak for my friend, but I was pretty tired.

The weather was gloomy this day, but not too rainy. It only sprinkled now and then. Instead of booking a cave tour, we once again decided to do things on our own. We rented a motorbike (for only about $5!) and headed to the caves using our trusty map from the hostel.

The scenery on the way to our first cave was beautiful. I couldn’t believe how dense the rainforest looked!

We only got lost a little before finding our first cave — Paradise Cave. When we arrived, there didn’t seem to be many people there. In matter of fact, there didn’t seem to be a lot of people traveling through Vietnam the majority of our trip. Good for us I guess!

To get to the cave, you must either walk up a steep hill or take a cart. We chose to walk to the cave.

The cave was nice, but we could only walk through about 1 km of it, as the rest of the area requires a tour.

After wandering through this cave, we drove to Dark Cave and ate lunch.

I wish I had more pictures of dark cave, but I didn’t want my camera to get messed up. This is why I need to buy a GoPro! Seriously! Dark cave was THE BEST. I was terrified of this cave because you have to first take a zipline, swim to the cave (it was freezing), and then walk to a mud pit in the cave. Well, this ended up being one of the highlights of my trip to Vietnam!

We were blessed to have gotten to the cave in time to sign up for the last tour. The zipline was really fun and the swim to the cave wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that it was freezing. Walking through the cave required us all to wear these helmets with lights on them. I’m thankful for the helmet because I must’ve hit my head 3 or so times while walking in the cave. They took us through tunnels and had us walk in these really tight areas to get to the mud pit. You definitely can’t be scared of the dark while walking through this. But to be honest, the mud pit was so fun and hilarious that you hardly even notice you’re in the dark. Everyone was laughing and the mud was so thick that you could literally float on top of it. At the end of the cave tour, we washed off in a freezing cold lake and then kayaked back to the entrance. Those brave few who wanted to try an obstacle course over the water were able. I was so cold though and opted out of it.

Another funny thing was after the cave, I realized I lost my flip flops! I was so bummed about this but my friend decided we should drive along the road and see if maybe they had fallen off my bag. Well, can you believe it but we actually found them in the road! They were in perfect shape too! Way to go Havaianas for creating amazing flip flops!

At night, we ate dinner in some crowded restaurant and then hung out with some people at the “club” in the town. And by “club,” I mean the sketchiest hole-in-the-wall place ever. All in good fun though!

What do you think?