6 things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam – A cultural gem tucked away in paradise

After spending the best week of my life exploring Son Doong (The World’s Largest Cave) I ventured southward towards Hoi An, Vietnam.  It began with a Boomerang Bus trip to Hue City where I spent one night before jumping on a motorbike for a day of cruising which delivered me to Hoi An.  I heard wonderful things about Hoi An before arriving and couldn’t wait to find out for myself.  Friends from home told me it was a must see hidden gem.  Friends in Korea informed me it was a tailoring capital of the world and new buddies in Vietnam told me I could be there in time for the full moon lantern festival!

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The motorbike ride was an exhilarating experience that I highly recommend to any backpackers in Vietnam.  From Hue to Hoi An or vice versa you can cheaply rent a motor bike with a group of backpackers and deliver it to the next hostel.  For a few extra bucks they’ll ship your bags on the bus with less adventurous travelers.  The trip south from Hue takes you over the Hai Van pass commanding a stunning view of the ocean with northern Vietnam above and Danang City to the south. (Danang City houses the closest airport to Hoi An & is only a $10 cab ride away).

Once you arrive in Hoi An you’ll be sure to enjoy a relaxing stay whether for few days or a weeks.  I thought I’d only be there a few days and stayed all week!  So, what is there to do in Hoi An?

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Son Doong Day 4 – Great Wall of Vietnam

Rising early I enjoyed some hot tea while listening to Son Doong’s morning chorus of insects filled with an avian duet, buzzing beetles and the occasional hooting owl.  I hoped to hear a monkey or spot some of this magnificent wildlife, perhaps even the fabled flying foxes Howard mentioned.  Sipping my tea I settled for the best that nature would give me and enjoyed the serenade as our camp flickered into life with rays of morning light gleaming through the misty jungle from the aptly named doline, Garden of Edam.

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A hearty breakfast of fresh fruit and veggie filled ramen topped with eggs came out as my traveling partners emerged from their tents.  Today’s journey would take us o the mud filled trench named after WWI’s Passchendaele, a battle that claimed 310,000 Allied lives for a measly 5 mile gain.  After sloshing through the trenches we hoped to watch Deb rappel down the Great Wall of Vietnam, a 200 foot cliff, with the head of national parks and our tour company._DSC7864

Donning a grimy set of clothes we left our porters behind.  After trekking to the wall wee would return to camp for lunch before beginning our 3 day journey back to town.  As the campsite grew smaller so did our window into the sky.  We stopped for a gorgeous silhouette photo making good use of the 2nd doline’s green aperture.  Hanging right between 2 massive stalagmites the cave eyt again showed how monstrous it was.  This massive chamber wound around rock formations in rooms larger than my house when suddenly a slithering snake greeted us.

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Son Doong

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Mr. Ky shined his light warning us with a swift “No!” before backing away.  There was no translation for this jungle creature’s name other than “very dangerous,” and lets not forget that we are a 3 day journey from the road.  The meter-long serpent probably eats bats according to Thanh, who helped me keep a safe distance as I photographed the beast.

 

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Son Doong

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Son Doong Day 3 – The Garden of Edam

 

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Hiking from Watch out for Dinosaurs to Garden of Edam

Son Doong’s Garden of Edam peeked through the next passage like a half moon keeping a wary eye on foreign travelers.  Hiking once more in the dark, our headlamps illuminated bulbous calcite deposits left by a millennia of rainy seasons carving its way through this ancient waterway.  In another million years our passageway will likely be sealed by this natural cave evolution._DSC7659

_DSC7660Sending Deb and Mr. Ky ahead as our models, we made use of the vantage point provided by the calcite domes. Setting up the photograph wasn’t too difficult with such natural beauty.  The tricky part was accounting for the clouds that kept rolling in.  At first I thought they would bring some stunning contrast to the shot but quickly realized we would have to wait for them to clear.

 

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Hiking from Watch out for Dinosaurs to Garden of Edam

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Climbing into The Garden of Edam

Finally the clouds dissipated with a resounding “ooo, ah!” and “holy f*ck!” from us white folk.  Snapping a shot of the Garden of Edam’s lush entryway with white stalactites completing a scene that will be ingrained in my brain forever.  Eager to join the jungle’s chorus (or at least get a closer vantage point) we went out once again.  Climbing down the calcite stalagmites proved to be a simple task. As we reached the left wall. a dried up riverbed lead the way among boulders as we headed straight for the doline’s base.

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Slick, but not as fickle as Watch out for Dinosaurs’ red carpet we were able to make the ascent as a group.  Of course Thanh, Carla and I trailed for some excess photography.  By the time we reached the mouth of Son Doong’s second jungle (that former watchful eye) everyone was relaxing on a vine-laden outcropping while a misty cloud surrounded us.  We joined for a water break and some friendly banter about the differences between British, American, Canadian and French Canadian English.

 

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Climbing into The Garden of Edam

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Climbing into The Garden of Edam

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Climbing into The Garden of Edam

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Hang Son Doong – The Garden of Edam

Garden of Edam’s lush overgrowth was littered with all stages of life.  We found dozens of crushed snails, many as big as a baseball!  Monkeys descend the treacherous walls of this doline from the deep jungle outside, especially when it rains.  Once down below they smash these snails for a quick snack.

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Hang Son Doong – The Garden of Edam

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Hang Son Doong – The Garden of Edam

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Looking back at our ascent

Massive trees loomed 30 meters above while Thanh pointed out 3 stages of a gorgeous mystery flower. It bloomed by sprouting a pink stalk that eventually fanned out for a peacock like display.  We climbed over downed banana trees and every moss or fern you can imagine as a cacophony of birds and bugs echoed from nearly 300 meters above!

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Hang Son Doong – The Garden of Edam

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Hang Son Doong – The Garden of Edam

The heat & humidity climbed the further that we did.  Coupled with the thought of our next feast being prepared by Mr. Tu and the porter team, we were convinced not to dwell up here for too long.  It took about 30 minutes to get through three doline where we could barely make out the campsite below. At first on our right was an archway massive enough to house a skyscraper!  Howard let us know that passage was sealed off although the river previously flowed through it. Within the last few million the calcite formations grew too large and diverted the river.  That very change in course created the cavern we had just passed through and rewarded us with a wonderful vantage point after a brief climb.  The river is apparently now creating a 3rd path since ours was nearly stopped up and may be impassable in a few hundred million years.

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Hang Son Doong Camp 2 just beneath The Garden of Edam

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Desending to Hang Son Doong’s Camp 2 just beneath The Garden of Edam

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Hang Son Doong Camp 2 just beneath The Garden of Edam

Moments after arrival Mr. Tu and the porter crew laid a new feast before us.  It was impossible to predict that fried chicken & french fries would be freshly made this deep into the jungle but they were just as delicious as the Vietnamese stir fry that accompanied tonight’s dinner.  After eating we switched over to Vietnamese card games and challenged the porters managing to walk away a little cleaner than the night before.    The bad news was that we walked away cleaner because of a new penalty, we still lost 9 out of 10 games and were delivered rice wine and kneeling penalties which meant you had to kneel on the hard rocks until you won a round!

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Hang Son Doong Camp 2 just beneath The Garden of Edam

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Hang Son Doong Camp 2 just beneath The Garden of Edam

 

After the sun set we went into overdrive setting up a night shot of the campsite surrounded by the green mouth of the doline.  Thanh, Mr. Ky and Chris hiked partway up the boulders and used our headlamps to illuminate the scene.  Half of the remaining crew lit the foreground while Carla and I snapped these once in a lifetime pictures of the entrance to Son Doong’s 2nd doline.

 

When Howard brought the BBC reporter to this very same location he approached from the darkness behind us.  They rappelled down the Great Wall of Vietnam (which I would get to see tomorrow); upon turning the corner the commentator saw The Garden of Edam and exclaimed “Fuckin’ Hell!”

“Cut!” shouted his director.  BBC is family friendly so they had to reshoot the entrance a few times before finally managing “Fffffreaking hell” which was usable.  Howard’s anecdotal stories like this were a great addition to the trip.  ONe of my other favorites was his adventure to Coral Reef, 18 hours beyond the Great Barrier Reef; well maybe the camera man he brought to Son Doong who accidentally burned Howards hand and then forced him to carry all the equipment in a climb after nearly breaking his “good” hand.  If you want to hear them the best thing is to head to Phong Nha and join one of these trips!

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Hang Son Doong Camp 2 just beneath The Garden of Edam

 

Son Doong Day 2 – Jungle & Descent

Mother nature’s alarm clock began to ring as soon as light shone through Hang En’s massive entrance above us; with any luck we’d arrive at Son Doong by this afternoon but as the chorus of cicadas and swifts convinced me to check my watch I decided that could wait.  5:15AM, I think I’ll snooze for another hour or so.

My second wake up was on my own accord as I met Howard, Deb and Thanh by the fire.  Declining tea or coffee I opted for a brief swim to wake me up instead.  Over a steaming breakfast of  Vietnamese noodles with veggies and eggs we discussed some of the cultural American anomalies and stereotypes.  After deciding colour vs color, why the imperial system is just plain ridiculous and hearing a few caving stories it was time to get moving.

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Departing Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

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Departing Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

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Departing Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

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Departing Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

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Departing Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

First we took a brief detour staying in  Hang En’s main chamber.  Bouldering up the sandy rocks afforded us a dazzling view of our campsite below.  In spite of being half-broken down by our porters it was still a spectacular view.  We soon climbed back down and donned our remaining gear.  The trek out of Hang En sported some massive passageways and difficult terrain.

We crossed the Son river at least once and climbed some hundred odd meters to a glorious overlook.  Playing with the silhouettes and lighting we were able to snag some sweet shots as the porter team disappeared in the distance.  But now it was time to say goodbye to this former contender for world’s largest cave.  We began our descent and quickly approached the monstrous mouth of the cave and exited back into the jungle.  We would follow the river for nearly 2 hours before climbing up the gigantic riverbank and back into the undergrowth.

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

Along the trek the sun beat down on us as butterflies stole the stage.  Every few hundred meters we encountered a swarm of the symmetrical critters.  Howard learned (from a National Geographic team) that the best way to attract the beautiful insects is actually to urinate.  No one tried it since they seemed to be flocking to us anyway.

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Butterfly!

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

Sloshing through the knee-deep river when it finally came time to exit the waterway we were quite ecstatic.  Little did we know that the wooded path before us would be much more difficult.  We weaved around and over muddy rocks and logs while the trail snaked upwards as slippery as it was steep.  Deb pointed out hand and foot hold as I trailed the group taking photographs of our jungle journey.

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

Distracted by the natural chorus and beauty all around I ignored Deb’s hand hold trusting my own balance when the  log beneath my feet suddenly gave way!  Reaching out I caught my camera in my left hand and grasped a slick log with my right.  Luckily my left foot landed firmly on a rock after only sliding a foot or two.  Checking myself for injuries I was relieved to find I only banged up my shin but it certainly was a necessary wake-up call as to the potential peril’s of our trek.

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Heading through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park’s jungle to Son Doong, Vietnam

After a quick recovery and another 30 minutes of climbing the trail leveled off.  We were told “5 minutes more” before a lunch break within view of Son Doong’s entrance!  Slowly finishing our morning journey Deb and I were chatting away.  I probed her with questions about the jungle and the local people, I was intrigued by her and Howard’s worldly adventures that frankly seemed otherworldly to a simple laymen like myself.  Suddenly I spotted something black and yellow glittering just above our heads.  “Stop!” I shouted to Deb, “What is that?” I pointed to a spider hanging just off the path.  A wondrous web was sprawled out nearly a meter across with a fist-sized Golden Orb spider lurking in the middle.

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Golden Orb Spider (roughly the size of my hand and they eat birds!)

I mentioned to Deb  that I’d seen much smaller Golden Orbs in the Costa Rican rainforest near Arenal Volcano and she reminded me that the natives collect the web for nets just like the aboriginal Costa Ricans.  I went around the next bend to grab any non-arachnophobia companions and show them the journey’s biggest creature so far.  We posed with gloved hands for scale of the black and yellow critter.  It’s spots and stripes shown in the afternoon sun as our stomachs rumbled louder luring us back to the permanent camp for Son Doong’s “guards.”  There are two rangers/guides posted at all times just in case.

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om nom nom nom!

Upon arrival we were greeted with heaping plates of homemade spring rolls, fresh watermelon, bananas and snacks galore.  We ate and enjoyed some bird watching as the anticipation of our momentous descent became too much to handle.  As we finished eating the porters began fitting harnesses while Howard and Deb reviewed some safety techniques and protocol.


The first few feet of our descent brought a cool embrace from a light breeze exiting the black abyss below.  A short rope climb brought us to the last stretch of jungle before I squeezed feet first through a tiny hole.  Crouching low my backpack snagged on a rock behind me; I reached behind and detached my tripod releasing me from the clutches of the sharp stone.

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Beginning the descent into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

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Beginning the descent into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

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Beginning the descent into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

Bats swooped around the corner just over Deb’s head.  As I came around the bend I noticed my companions peering into the blackness as Howard and the rest of the Vietnamese team checked the ropes.  After getting the all clear we got a quick tutorial and began one at a time.

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Son Doong was discovered by Ho Khanh in 1990 before being explored by our guides Howard & Deb in the late 2000’s

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Beginning the descent into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

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In awe at what we are about to do. Become among the first 200 people to enter Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

A series of 4 ropes would bring us  halfway to the bottom.  In between each we had to disconnect and reconnect with some veteran help.  Below us the river rambled through rock formations in the darkness.  The second half of our entry would bring us closer to that waterway but didn’t require safety ropes.  Carefully we climbed down the bulbous stalagmites to arrive at the first river crossing.  An orange rope dangled above as a handhold in case the current was swift in this waist deep passage.

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Beginning the descent into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

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Beginning the descent into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

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Beginning the descent into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave!

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Holy Crap, Son Doong!

After crossing we took a water break while the bats continued to zip around us.  Howard told more stories from his treks around Vietnam and most notably Son Doong’s original exploration.  Eager to see more of this main event scoured the vicinity with our headlamps.  This damp chamber was full of fabulous rock formations but Howard sensed our anticipation and we quickly moved onward.

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Day 1 inside Son Doong

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1st river crossing, Son Doong

The pathway ahead was strewn with massive boulders.  Thanh led the way under each rock as our passage grew narrower you got a sense that above these massive stones the chamber was many times as big.  Before long we met the next river which would act as our guide over the next series of boulders before we arrived at the crossing.  On the other side we took our packs off, grabbed some soap and had a group “bath.”  This would be our last wash for the next 3 days!

As clean as we could get deep in the Vietnam’s jungle we set out one more time.  The trail on the far side of this river was slippery but we managed to keep a good pace anyway.  The following chamber’s sandy pathway weaved through spider webs.  No, web isnt’ the right word.  These are more like nests of white silk half-burrowed into the sand.  As the webs thinned out the crickets grew more prevalent when someone spotted fresh mushrooms on the left, perhaps they would be added to tonight’s dinner.

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Son Doong’s darkness

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mushrooms, rocks & spiders

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Black stalagmites covered in sand

Suddenly the cavern expanded; blackness surrounded us as we hugged the right wall and were told a great landscape lay just ahead.  The Hand of Dog is a massive stalagmite, not quite as large as the world’s biggest in the previous chamber.  The structure itself is dwarfed by the chamber surrounding it instead of taking up the almost every cubic meter making it a much more formidable sight in one of the most voluminous caverns in the world.  To make it even more impressive just past Hand of Dog’s peak is the first doline, a collapsed portion of the cave where light and rain come in turning it into a green oasis.

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Son Doong, aka the world’s largest underground darkness

Deb was sent ahead to climb the stalagmite while Thanh posed significantly closer on a “small” round stalagmite.  Kate set up shop on another rotund rock near the cameras and after a few practice shots Howard assigned “light painters.”  Their job is to pan back and forth with their headlamps while we use a long exposure to capture as much of the scene as possible.  In a few takes we had what everyone hoped were stellar photographs (see for yourself!) and continued towards the sunlight in the distance.

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Hand of Dog silhouetted in front of Watch out for Dinosaurs, Son Doong

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Hand of Dog with Deb on top

We crept closer to Hang Son Doong’s first doline, aptly named “Watch out for Dinosaurs.”  As we approached following the line of stalagmites along the western wall it was instantly apparent that the abyss beneath us fell off in a sudden cliff.  Focused on the encompassing darkness I nearly missed the stunning campground that appeared as I slipped past Hand of Dog.  A cloud formed just beneath the doline as the temperature changed.

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2nd campsite in Son Doong with cloud cover in front of Watch out for Dinosaurs, a jungle inside the world’s largest cave!

The green gours in Watch out for Dinosaurs peaked through a cloud that formed above our tents but would elude us until the following day.  Arriving at the 2nd campsite our tents were already set up by the porters and soon began our feast.  Tonight’s Vietnamese dinner was a barbecued set of pork ribs, beef paired with a chicken & veggie stir fry.  One of my new favorites, a spicy tofu was present with our rice & rice wine staples.

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2nd campsite in Son Doong

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2nd campsite in Son Doong

After eating Thanh taught us the Vietnamese version of the card games Uno and Asshole/President (Mau Mau & Tien Len).  These games are wildly popular among the porter team but after arriving at camp by 4pm we were still able to hear Howard’s jungle rescue story after a flash flood trapped some of his team in a distant cave for nearly 2 days.  He reminded us that the breathtaking view here would easily make it the “best toilet in the world,” the alien jungle bursting forth in the distance promised an enjoyable stay on the throne but wasn’t enough to keep me from going back to the card games.  Unfortunately they instituted a “loser gets painted with charcoal” rule.  You can tell us foreigners need practice.

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Foreigners losing at Vietnamese card games, Son Doong

Son Doong Day 1 – Through the jungle to Hang En

After a series of plane rides from Seoul to Hanoi and finally to Dong Hoi I was picked up by Oxalis for my trip into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave.  From Dong Hoi it was about an hour ride to Phong Nha; the home of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a remote jungle wonderland filled with more amazement than I could possibly have imagined.

Waking up the next day we took our last showers and made sure everyone’s pack was set for the 7 day trip deep into the rain forest.  45 minutes later we were pulling off the newly paved road; we only passed a solitary motor bike and 1 other van on this secluded highway.

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The crew (From L-R) Thanh – Vietnamese Tour Guide, Julian, Alex, Kate, Chris, Deb – British Tour Guide, Sheena, Toby, Mr. Khanh – discovered Son Doong, Howard – British Tour Guide, Carla, Me

On the trip Howard, our guide and one of the crew that discovered Son Doong, told stories from his previous expeditions.  Perhaps the most amusing was an 80 person bike tour he put together for Russians.  Alcohol had been banned but that didn’t stop 7 or  8 of them from speeding down the jungle valley and careening off the road!  They ended their excursion in Saigon and were finally allowed booze; too bad 4 of them ended up in jail and another half dozen wallets were stolen!

Before long we saw our porters mixed with a few jungle folk along the side of the road.  One last gear check and into the jungle we went!  The hike began on a narrow path with a steep hill to our left.  A few uphills were interspersed along the way as we gazed in awe at nature’s beauty surrounding us.  Within minutes mother nature had swallowed us whole.

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Trekking through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park Ranger Mr. Phuoc

Our first water break came at our last peak of today’s path.  All 11 of us (Sheena, Carla, Katie, Chris, Alex, Julian, Toby, Howard, Deb, Myself & Thanh – an English speaking Vietnamese guide) let the porters and Phong Nha people stroll onward while we relaxed int eh shade and began to get to know each other.

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Trekking through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Trekking through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Moments later we were moving onward along the steep downhill.  This was our first balancing act as the slippery slope required sure footing to reach the bottom.  Little did we know that this short journey would be a piece of cake compared to the next few days!

Taking one more water break, we eventually reached the bottom and our first of many river crossings.  Wading in just above our ankles was refreshing and everyone splashed around cooling off in this 35°C, feels like 42°C heat.  The now leisurely hike included multiple water breaks in between a dozen river crossings over pleasantly flat terrain.  Unfortunately Gortex doesn’t let water out either which meant I was sloshing around for the rest of the day.  Good thing I prepared with wool socks!

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Approaching a minority village in the middle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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A minority village in the middle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

By midday we reached a remote Phong Nha village.  Well, actually its a family of 32 with a few buildings and a school.  They invited us into their home to enjoy some midday shade and tea as our guides translated their tribal language and taught us about their farming lifestyle and local culture.  We were even promised a song on the journey back!

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A minority village in the middle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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A minority village in the middle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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A minority village in the middle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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A minority village in the middle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Their farmland was quickly devoured by the jungle as our journey restarted.  Still relatively flat yet full of rivers the trek managed to grow wearisome as we dreamed of lunch surrounded by the vibrant jungle mountains.  Along the trail Howard pointed to the ridge in the distance.  “That’s tiger territory.”  He said informing us that they find the same tracks of the brilliant feline with an injured paw so they know its flying solo.

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MOOOOOOOO!

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Trekking through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

2 more breaks and it was our first mealtime!  Our chefs had sliced veggies and laid out quite a spread for our “make our own hot dog lunch.”  The individually wrapped precooked franks were actually labeled as “baguettes” but with a little cucumber, tomato, cheese and chili sauce it made a delicious jungle picnic.

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om nom nom nom nom

The last leg of our first day was quickly approaching.  Around the next bend Howard mentioned the faraway mountain with an obvious rock face.  Underneath that overhang was the entrance to Hang En where we would spend our first evening.  The trail began sporting tall grasses in between wading back and forth across the river.

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Trekking through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Trekking through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Trekking through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

While it was actually a few kilometers we seemed to arrive moments later and began donning our cave gear.  Helmets were strapped on with headlamps attached while everyone put on bright orange gloves to protect against the jagged rocks.  We quickly crossed the last river which brought us to our first series of bouldering.  After a few dozen rocks the cave suddenly expanded into a vast cavern.

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The entrance to Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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The entrance to Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

On our right far below us lay a sandy floor surrounded by glorious pools.  To the left the boulders continued climbing upwards eventually ending in a massive exit to the dense jungle above.  We climbed 3/4 of the way up for a photo op while our porters finished setting up the tents and prepped dinner.

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Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Campsite 1 in Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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A second entrance to Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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A second entrance to Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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Campsite 1 in Hang En in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Soaking in the breathtaking view of this massive scene it was hard to believe that this monstrosity wasn’t even the main event!  Tomorrow we would enter Son Doong, the world’s largest cave which was so remote we had to spend the night in Hang En’s beautiful foyer.  We headed back down and reached the bottom to unpack and enjoy a leisurely evening of swimming in the clear blue waters and getting to know each other over our first tastes of rice wine.