Exploring Vietnam’s Paradise Cave
Featured destinations: Vietnam
Published 10 May 2016
image:Helen WinterInside Paradise CaveMy guide informed the group that we had an hour and a half to explore the first kilometre of the cave. Descending down levels of wooden staircases, I stopped to take in the sight in front of me.A cavern too huge to be described by English vocabulary opened out in front of me. The ceiling loomed over like a giant concert hall, gloomily lit. I walked down further and faced the colossal stalactites and stalagmites. Running into the guide, she informed me that they were likely to be 2.5 million years old. Looking back at the towering compound of minerals, it was hard to grasp how long they had stood there.As I walked along the wooden platform, the scenery before me became more surreal. It is what I imagine the inside of the moon to look like; it was as if I was discovering a completely different world. The view from the caveAfter my hour and a half was up I climbed to the top and let my eyes adjust to the daylight. The view from the cave is almost as rewarding as below the earth; green trees stretched for miles, with vines hanging like telephone wires. I had found a real rainforest.
image:Helen WinterPhong Nha caveAfter a lunch of steamed rice and friend beef with vegetables, it was time to discover another cave. Climbing aboard a green and blue boat we settled in the river. The ride was about 30 minutes but the view along the way was an impressive display of Vietnam’s notoriously magical countryside.
image:Helen WinterRowing through Phong Nha CaveAs the boat’s motor churned, the views of mountain and rural riverside villages came into view, passing fishermen and women harvesting riverweed to feed their livestock, whilst children played football in the fields.Entering the long opening of the cave, we moved into darkness. The engine of the boat shut off and an elderly Vietnamese woman on board began to paddle with her feet. Above us was a sight like nothing I’d seen before. It felt like I had entered a vortex into a magical world. Above us stalactites protruded from the walls, one was called the ‘elephant’ and when I squinted I could kind of see it. Maybe with a touch of imagination too.
image:Helen WinterHistory of the caveUnlike Paradise Cave, Phong Nha cave has more of a history. The rooms in the cave were habited by tribes in the 12th century and later used in the Vietnam War to store weapons, and as a stable for horses. After a tour of the caves, we pulled up a beach bank to walk out, passing more otherworldly rock formations on the way.Reintroducing myself with the now waning day light, I followed a sign pointing towards a small Buddhist temple. Climbing to the top a signed informed me that the Phong Nha caved was used to perform rain ceremonies here many years ago, where drums were beaten, songs sung, and haunting sacrificed made.Each cave taught me more about Vietnam than I had expected. The newly discovered Paradise Cave showed me that Vietnam is more than a country with a tragic history but also a place we outstanding natural beauty. Contrasting this was the Phong Nha cave full of tales from modern history and ancient traditions. In a day I had experienced the real Vietnam from above and below. Chat to your Expert and to book your holiday to Vietnam. Why not try our most popular Vietnamese Journey, Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh?You might also like:First Time Vietnam: 9 Things You Cannot MissExploring the Coffee Culture of Vietnam