Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
We headed downstairs to wait for the bus to take us to Phong Nha Cave. Not exactly the cave I was hoping to tour, but we planned on making the best of it. We found out the bus was running a little behind due to a lack of punctuality with some of the earlier pick ups, so we took advantage and snuck off to grab Banh Mi sandwiches.
When the bus arrived, we met our guide who was nice and kept saying “Ya’know?” after every sentence, which was kind of entertaining. Before making it to our destination, we made a quick pit stop at La Vang Sanctuary. It was, and still is a place of pilgrimage for Vietnamese Catholics, and it is said that during the Catholic prosecutions in the late 1700’s, the Mother Mary appeared to console those seeking refuge there. The church was destroyed during the Vietnam War, but it was still a beautiful place.
The next stop was “Son Doong Restaurant” which was located right outside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Our guide separated the group into two categories at the restaurant, the vegetarian food table and the “normal” food table, which made us laugh. We shared the “not-so-normal” table with two Asian tourists in their 40’s and a girl from Bristol named Carolyn. We chatted with her over rice, fries, spring rolls and the assortment of tofu dishes that were brought out to us.
Before boarding the boat by the pier, we both paid the ‘water closet’ a visit. I shared my excitement to Carolyn over the flushable squat toilets that were inside. Trevor took a long time, but eventually came out looking a little pale. Before I could question it, he told me that he was locked in the bathroom stall and couldn’t get the door to open. While making his escape, the opaque glass window on the door shattered all over the floor. Embarrassed, he said that once he realized no one was there to witness his little accident, he got the hell out of there as fast as he could.
I laughed as we joined the others by the river and loaded on the boat. Trevor smacked his head on the wood post overtop the boat even after he had been warned about it. Tall people problems. I tried to enjoy the scenery, but most of the green mountains were on the other side of the boat. I made a mental note to sit on the same side on our way out so I could get a better view.
As we approached the cave, the boat pulled over to the river bank. Thinking we would be walking through the cave, I got a little bummed out. Fortunately, we were only waiting for a couple of boats to exit, then we continued onward.
There was a drastic drop in temperature as we went inside, and we would get a better view when the tarp covering the boat was removed by the crew. The cave was pretty and we laughed as the guide shared his opinion on what the different stalactite and stalagmites looked like, from lions, to elephants, to Jesus!
He informed us that the waterway connects to an underground river which is the longest one in Asia. We turned the boat around and realized we got there just in time. It was beginning to get a little crowded as more and more boats began entering the cave.
We would be exiting the cave by foot after getting dropped off along the sandbank where there were more rock formations to see.
Carolyn got my laughing when she pointed out a formation that looked an awful lot like someone using a squat toilet.
We were smacked with a wave of heat as we exited the cave and were funneled through a collection of vendors selling ice cream and knick knacks.
We talked more with Carolyn about how fortunate we were to have the freedom to travel, and she told us more about Bristol which I hope to visit some day. We boarded back on the bus and returned to Hue where we’d grab vegetable pasta at “Allez Boo’s”.
Jump Ahead to Part 15: Hairy Dentistry, Disorder & Xanax
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Busing Across the Border to Ho Chi Minh City