Before finalizing a place to travel there is something that draws you to the destination, Phong Nha Ke Bang was that attraction for me. I stumbled upon a picture of one of the majestic caves of Phong Nha and, for the lack of words, it took my heart away.
The first known writing about the cave system was somewhere in 1550 followed by a number of exploration by Vietnamese as well as foreign explorers. However, this pristine untouched forest and the purest limestone massive was given UNESCO world heritage status in the year 2003. It came to me as a shock that the place was opened to tourism only a few years back.
Reaching Phong Nha:
Due to the increasing tourism Phong Nha has become easily accessible by rail, road and air. If you are coming from Ho Chi Minh City the best way is to take a flight till Dong Hoi which takes about 1 hour 30 minutes after reaching the airport get out on the highway and hop on a local bus that takes another 90 minutes to reach Phong Nha (30,000 VND). In case you do not wish to wait for the local bus take a taxi, they may ask you anywhere from 500,000 VND to 1,000,000 VND bring them down to about 400,000 VND. Another way is to book a taxi with the place you are staying, in case there are more than 1 person the cost goes down accordingly.
From other parts of Vietnam like- Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi– one can take an overnight bus till Dong Hoi or a Train. If you are not traveling on a tight budget and want a comfortable journey my suggestion is to take a train (anywhere in Vietnam).
Where to stay:
There are plenty of options to stay for the budget and high range travelers alike. My suggestions:
Phong Nha Farm stay Easy Tigers Pepper house Homestay I had stayed at the Easy Tigers, it is very conveniently located near the bus stop and the boat station which takes you to the Phong Nha Caves. Every morning they give you general information about the caves which is very helpful to plan you adventure in the vicinity. Most of the buses from Phong Nha to another city in Vietnam run in the night giving you plenty of time to explore the area, you can keep your belongings in the locker and merrily do so.