Paradise Cave, Vietnam

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Thiên Đường Cave, or “Paradise” Cave known to tourists like me and you, is somewhat of a new discovery in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, in the Quảng Bình Province.

Approximately 500 km south of Hanoi, or 223 km North West of Huế (depending where you’re coming from) it was stumbled upon by a local man one day not so far ago in 2005, and what a discovery it was.

The British Cave Research Association caught wind and explored the first 5 km in the same year, but the full 31 km was not fully wandered through until late in 2010 – the same year it opened to tourists.

Reaching 100 m high and 150 m wide, it managed to take away the title of ‘Longest Cave’ from it’s predecessor ‘Phong Nha’ Cave, which doesn’t just reside in the same country but also the same National park.

These extraordinary measurements did not win it the ‘Biggest Cave’ in the world however – no, although a contender, considered to be the biggest cave in the world can also be found around here. Phong Nha is a cave gold mine, so it should be no surprise UNESCO knighted this a World Heritage Site.

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It was my boyfriend and my decision to visit Paradise Cave, out of the spoilt for choice gigantic cave menu – we like caves.

However, what we didn’t realise how much we had to prepare ourselves before finally reaching it’s entrance.

We booked ourselves on a tour from Huế, that would take a grueling five hours to get there, and another five back – if you are unexperienced or not knowledgeable about Vietnamese roads and traveling within it then please read my post Nightmare Aboard a Vietnamese Sleeper Bus to understand why a distance that should take three and a bit hours to cover, in fact takes longer, much longer.

So it wasn’t a wise choice from me to stay out a bit longer and have a few more Beer Hoi’s the night before.

I fell asleep in the small tour bus on the way there, my boyfriend kindly filmed this and I was going to add it here for comedic effect, but sadly and mysteriously it has disappeared from his phone…

What I will provide is a fetching photo of me in one of the free tour caps that were provided. Cám ơn!

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After arriving at the park we stopped off at a roadside restaurant for lunch, which was included with the price – like many tours in Vietnam!

Joyful at the sight of food in an effort to relieve my heavy hangover, it was soon interrupted by a group of loud chanting Vietnamese men at another table.  Although I have no idea what was being celebrated, it was indeed being celebrated with taking a shot of rice vodka and much loud, but happy, cheering.

They couldn’t resist getting our tour group involved – although a large shot of eye-waterly strong rice vodka with loud Vietnamese men shouting in my face was the last thing I wanted at that exact moment; it was oddly enjoyable and I’d gladly do it all again.

It was not over yet, the next part was a tough hike up to the cave’s entrance in weather of high humidity – I can’t remember how long this took in total but I warn you now; do not go hungover and if you are not of reasonable fitness give up now.

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The walk down is much easier, however.

The first 1.1 km of the cave has a built-up wooden platform for tourists – the further 29.9km is not reachable by untrained cave explorers like us, as the cave shrinks into small hollows making it a safety risk to the average man/woman.

The only safety risk there is to worry about is the wooden steps going down to the platform – these can be very slippery, so make sure you wear suitable shoes, but then again, even if you’re wearing them too you too can still slip – as my boyfriend did which prompted me to hold his hands down the steps as if hanging onto him like a small child in fear he may slip again (sorry David.)

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Inside, you can’t help but wonder at the cave’s beauty.  It is truly spectacular and the lighting along the platform and shining stalactites and stalagmites – the most magnificent I’ve ever seen – adds to the eerie presence of the cave, imagine stumbling across this!

The heat and the sweat you experience outside is now cooly fanned by the damp atmosphere of the cave.  We stayed inside for around an hour long gazing in awe at some of the wax-like formations.

The five hours it took to get here, the shouty crazy Vietnamese men with their rice vodka and the uphill trek were all worth it.  It looks magical.  Here are a feast of my best pics, which I feel the camera did not do enough justice.

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The white cap makes another appearance!

The white cap makes another appearance!

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