Don’t stay at Easy Tiger
Famous amongst backpackers, this hostel is the bomb. However, you can enjoy all of its amenities without actually sleeping there. I stayed at Gecko hostel and I could check in and sleep in a bed for free from when I arrived.
Rent a moped or find a friend to give you a ride.
You technically need a license and you definitely need a helmet. The roads are extremely quiet. Check your vehicle over before setting off and make sure you have a number to call if anything goes wrong. (Like it did for me and my gang). We were five people on three mopeds.
The nearest attraction to town. Pay the 4000 dong parking charge and the 40000 dong entrance ticket (total less than $2) and take route two. This is a fairly challenging hike around in a loop through the jungly undergrowth to a waterfall where you can bathe (two shallow to really swim). They told us it would take 1.5hrs but it was quicker than that including a paddle in the pool.
Enjoy the drive to Paradise Cave
This was fun. I am gradually getting more confident on a moped and I loved that I was following my gang so didn’t have to navigate. It meant I could enjoy the breathtaking scenery on the undulating road. The green valleys were beautiful and we saw barely anyone on the roads.
Pay the parking charge (5000D) and the entrance ticket (250000D). Then have a snack before starting and take a plenty of water. There’s a shuttle golf cart thing that will take you the flat part of the route (or try and run you over, don’t miss the pedestrian path next to it!) but you’ll still have to make your way up the winding ramp. It’s pretty far and you will sweat! But the cool damp air of Paradise Cave as you descend the steps is just reward. We spent a while gazing at the cleverly lit formations and speculating on how long it had taken to form the stalagmites and columns. After a grainy selfie and an unhurried wander back it was time to take the steps back down.
Drive back the long way
If you’ve enjoyed the driving so far you can complete the loop back to town. The road is quiet and scenic, we dodged buffalo and children on bicycles on the 35 minute trip. It got a little busier nearer the town but nothing horrible.
Eat at Bun Cha
This little place just a couple of minutes from Easy Tiger (any hostel) served cheap beer and great food. Jesse and I had vegetarian bun cha. So tasty.
Drink at Easy Tiger
Anyone can buy drinks, listen to the live music and chat.
Phong Nha Cave
Join a group heading to the boat tour from Easy Tiger at 10:30. Or hang around at the ticket office which is just a short walk from town. With a boat full of people the total cost each was 190000D. This is a leisurely and relaxing antidote to all the activity the day before. Sit back as the boatmen chug down the river before cutting the engine and paddling you through the cave. You get a chance to get off the boat and wander around too. The cave was similarly awesome as Paradise Cave except with the addition of bats and water. If was nice to see some local life during the river trip too.
We then had lunch at Bamboo Cafe before I took the bus to Hue so that was my whistle-stop cave trip. Anything else I should have done? Comment below.