Hang Va cave is part of the world's largest cave, the Son Doong Cave system. The caves were used by the Vietnamese soldiers to hide and protect themselves during the Vietnam war. The Hang Va and Nuoc Nut cave expedition is an unforgettable experience where you come across beautiful formations, enormous passage and an underground river.
This requires you to be physically fit and mentally strong. If you know swimming, that's even better. After a brief swim through the cave, we trekked on the jungle path with a very bad/difficult terrain and sharp limestone rocks. The jungle campsite was located at the base of huge cliffs next to the entrance of Hang Va Cave.
This is a true jungle camp and a great experience with the sounds of water gushing through the caves on one side and the jungle noises on the other. Even the food prepared by the local chefs was a full-course meal with every type of meat on the table.
On the next day, we were given harnesses to wade through the slippery path before we entered the Hang Va Cave. This included walking most of the time in water flowing through the river passage, climb up and down, and squeeze between the rocks, falling and getting back up. It was about 5 hours of wading through the waters within the cave, which can be physically draining.
Apart from this, inside the cave, we were also asked to rappel using our harnesses from one rock to another to see the cone caves inside. The best part of the whole expedition was that the guide and the porters were giving us enough time, creating the perfect lighting to click pictures. After a strenuous inside-cave experience, we had lunch at the camp and took a different, difficult path to the exit. The way was paved by slippery slopes, river streams and blood-sucking leeches finding their way into our shoes.
The feeling of finishing the cave expedition was inexplicable. Feeling the sun on my face again, the fact that I could complete it and walk out, was just out of the world. Every problem felt small in front of it. The cave expedition taught me a great deal of things, for good. This has been the most memorable part of my Vietnam trip.
My friend and I spent the day feeling thankful to be alive. The feeling still hand't sunk in and we celebrated our survival over dinner at the local pub called 27cm in Dong Hoi. The pub had no crowd and the owners were sweet enough to give us the freedom to play the music we wanted. That truly was liberating in another country.
We left Dong Hoi with a heavy heart as that was our favourite city. From there, we headed to Hue which is around 4 hours from Dong Hoi by bus. Hue has a history of witnessing one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.
Hue's main attraction is the Imperial Citadel which occupies almost half of the city. The Citadel was the home of the emperor of the Nyugen Dynasty. (You will need at least 3 hours to complete the tour of the Citadel). The City has a few parks and good urban life and attracts a lot of tourists.
We discovered an Indian Restaurant in this city - Shiva Shakti India Restaurant. A must visit if you're craving for Indian food there. While this included our city visit of Hue, we lived in a resort built on a lagoon. This was the perfect way to end our holiday as we were surrounded by water and had to use cycles to move from one place to another.
On the last day again, we headed to Hanoi and spent the evening shopping on the streets of Hanoi. You can bargain well with them. So, if you have good bargaining skills, use them to the maximum. One of the major hassles we had while heading to the interiors of Vietnam was language. If you are using a local sim, Google translate will come in handy to interact with locals.
P.S. Our trip has been restricted to Northern Vietnam. We left out Hoi An and Danang in the north and chose Hue. Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne sand dunes, Phu Quoc in the South are traveller's favourites too. Don't forget to ask the locals to play some Vietnamese music on your way to different places. It's melodious.(My favourite Vietnamese song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAzT3TjRnws)
On the whole, this trip has been an eye-opener for me in many ways. It has opened up several doors for me. Vietnam is a beautiful country that has to be on your list if you're a nature lover. I hope to keep continuing this journey through different countries. Cheers!
When I saw the photo of Phong Nha cave which led me to Vietnam, I had no idea the reality would be way better than what I was in that tiny frame. I managed to visit a few of the 300 caves and the only regret was missing out on the Son Doong Cave which is the world’s largest cave! These caves are not only of geological importance but also has great historic importance. They were used as bomb shelters, ammunition depots and hospitals during the American war.