The amazing netherworld of Phong
netherworld of Phong Nha-Ke Bang
Recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in July 2003, the caves of Phong
Nha-Ke Bang in Quang Binh Province have become one of the most visited places in
Vietnam's central region.
The twin systems of Phong Nha-Ke Bang are located 50 kilometers northwest of
Dong Hoi in the limestone cliffs of Ke Bang and boast 300 majestic tunnels along
with a number of underground rivers and streams, and there could well be much
more waiting to be discovered.
Maps compiled by British speleologists in 1997 show nearly 65 kilometers of
caverns and passageways underneath the ground of Bo Trach District.
Phong Nha (which usually lends its name to the whole system) just outside the
village of Son Trach is perhaps the most beautiful. Fascinating formations crowd
its 7,729-meter length plus there are the distinctive caverns like
Toi (dark), Vom (vault) and En (swift). At the maximum point, the ceiling is 83
meters above the cave floor.
The farther one ventures into the bowels of the earth, the more illusory the
stalactites and stalagmites look as they glitter in the artificial brightness of
One of the most striking features is the pristine nature of many of the caves,
seemingly untouched by human hands despite the rising frequency of visitors on
Phong Nha-Ke Bang is listed in most of the tours to the central region arranged
by travel companies in HCMC. Their package deals usually take in all four World
Heritage Sites in the region, the others being Hue, the town of Hoi An and the
Champa ruins at My Son.
Cholontourist operates a five-day tour by air and road to Danang, My Son, Hoi An
and Phong Nha for VND3.3 million. Or you can pay VND3 million and travel up by
bus but still fly back to HCMC, in which case the trip takes eight days.
Saigontourist Travel offers three alternatives, all of them taking in Danang,
Hue and Phong Nha. One is to fly both ways, which makes for a five-day excursion
costing nearly VND2.8 million, or you can travel the entire way there and back
by coach for VND2.3 million.
The third option is to go north by road and fly back, which takes seven days and
costs VND2.7 million.
Fiditourist has a five-day tour by air to Hue, by bus to Phong Nha, Danang and
Hoi An, and by air back to HCMC for VND3.563 million. Alternatively, you can fly
up to Vinh, the capital of Nghe An Province, and travel by road to Phong Nha,
then motor back to Vinh for the flight home. This four-day outing costs VND3.5
million and takes in some of the sights of Nghe An too.
Another way to see Phong Nha-Ke Bang, to get the big picture, is to go on
Saigontourist Travel's new 17-day tour starting in HCMC. The trans-Vietnam
excursion is called
Con Duong Cai Quan (interprovincial highway) and goes to Nha Trang, Quy Nhon,
Hoi An, Danang, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Hue in the central region then Hanoi,
Halong Bay and other spots in the north. The average price is VND12.15 million.
To take advantage of the swelling number of visitors to Phong Nha-Ke Bang,
Saigontourist is building a 100-room hotel called Saigon-Quang Binh close by the
caves and hopes to finish the three-star establishment this year.
The State-owned holding company has also teamed up with four other firms to
establish the Saigon-Quang Binh Tourism Shareholding Company.
Its partners in the new venture are Ben Thanh Corporation, Tan Tao Industrial
Park Shareholding Company, a private enterprise called Dang Ngoc Hoai, and the
Quang Binh Tourist Company.
To book a tour or simply to find out more, here are the contact details:
Saigontourist Travel, 49 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1. Tel: (08) 829
Fiditourist, 129 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, District 1. Tel: (08) 914 1414
Cholontourist, 134 Nguyen Tri Phuong Street, District 5. Tel: (08) 835