Motorcycling Ho Chi Minh Trail – Phong Nha Caves National Park In Pictures

After traveling for half a year few things floor me.  I am constantly amazed by the serene beauty of small things but I am not often bowled over by big things.  Yet today was one of those days when I was wowed by what I saw.  I felt insignificant as I wandered around a huge cave alone.  I see the beauty of nature all the time, the green, the animals everywhere.  Yet this is something different.  I was in total awe of what slow geological changes that covered many of my lifetimes could do.  That even severe bombings of this region near the DMZ luckily did not destroy what thousands of years had wrought.

The view is beautiful as we took the boat to the caves. The breeze was cooling as we slowly motored ahead on the river.

I wish I could’ve gotten a ride from these guys, paddling by hand. I wonder what they were fishing for.

Once you arrived at the dock, there were so many flights of stairs to get to Tien Son cave. The view was gorgeous to distract you from the hundreds and hundreds of stairs.

The view keeps you going higher and higher. I got tired at one point during the climb and bought a coke around a bunch of women and girls playing a card game. I joined in two games and made a little bit of my overpriced coke money back. They were playing a variation of a game I know as Big 2 (China) or Pinoy (Philippines).

Finally, I reached the cave! It was empty that the workers had to mosey on over from their hammocks to turn on the technicolor fruity pebble lights for me.

It’s hard to get a not blurry photo with a small camera, but it is still beautiful in all its technicolor glory.

I constantly felt like I was in Disneyland’s big thunder railroad. Particularly when I fell and slid down a few slippery stairs.

This giant millipede I saw on the stair climb down was awesome. I reckon he was five or six inches long.

The Vietnamese are certainly right about one thing: Everywhere is hammock territory.

Private boat being paddled by nice people into a beautiful cave and a cold coconut. I’m a pretty happy camper. Unfortunately tide was too high to paddle through the caves in the boat.

They bend rebar into anchors. So resourceful!

After the boat ride we took our unladen motorcycles (a rare thing) onto the road following the river. It was a gorgeous ride. Ho Chi Minh Trail! We saw this sign from the river and had to take a closer look.

All the hay looks like muppets to me. Is that just me?  This one looks like it’s wearing a broken top hat.

The next day I went to the even more impressive and more tastefully lit Paradise Cave.  It is the world’s largest dry cave.  Unlike the caves I saw the day before, this whole complex was privately run.  That meant better maintenance and facilities but way more tourists.

The whole national park is pretty well developed and translated. Except for that last rule, which appears at all the caves. The caves are not handicapped friendly with all the stairs and I wonder if that’s what they meant.

This place was kind of Disneyland like. Down to the multiple parking lots and shuttle like golf carts to take you places because most Vietnamese people really hate walking, even a mere flat mile.

Rocks are amazing. The smoking tourists touching stalactites are less so. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese tourists come but I saw few foreigners. It’s already Disneyland like and it’s only been open for a year.  I can’t imagine what foreign tourism will bring.

Look how vast it is! They only let you in 1 km but it goes on for 30+.  They like to say you could fit a New York skyscraper in here.

I really wish I could trek on beyond the area they developed.  You can feel the cool cave air hit you before you even get in hinting at the infinite depth.

There were slick wooden walkways everywhere. Unlike being alone in Tien Son cave the day before, this place was crawling with tours, tourists, giant cameras and guides pointing laser pointers everywhere.

Luckily these caves are so huge even the onslaught of people cannot take away from how awe inspiring they are.

I’m so used to traveling along that I forget I should probably take some pictures of myself. Here’s the cave falling on me.

The ride through the national park to get to the caves was beautiful as well. I’ve always wondered how Vietnam is both Buddhist and Christian, so now I get it. It shoves the Virgin Mary under Asian architecture with a cross on top.

They combine the cemetery style as well. Above ground stone burials get a cross out here.

The lagoon and rivers had turquoise water that made me want to jump right in. It’s hard to see in the picture when it’s reflecting the sky so perfectly.

I’ve been in karst land for over a month now and it’s still gorgeous. I wish I got a shot of the kids and water buffalo swimming. As much as I enjoy the ride, I was jealous of them at that moment. Yet I enjoyed the whole day so much, I don’t think I could love it anymore.


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