The caves of Phong Nha

We learned through other travellers about a series of caves in this region of Vietnam.  Coming down the Ho Chi Minh highway we stopped at the town of Phong Nha and took a boat tour to visit two of these caves.  One is a semi-submerged cave that stretches on for 55km.  For the first kilometer, the only one open to tourists, we were rowed through lit caverns and let off at two huge grottos where we could walk around.  The second cave required a 580 step climb up the mountain but was equally stunning and well worth the climb.  Both caves were lit with psychedelic, multi-coloured lights and consisted of huge formations and towers.  Also in this region in 2009, a spelunking team discovered a new cave that will open to the public in ten days.  They’ve recently measured it and it is officially the biggest cave in the world.  To enter the cave, visitors will have to rappel 80 feet down into the mountain.  We would love to have seen this cave but, apart from not yet being open to visitors, we imagine it will be quite expensive to see.  The nearby town where we stayed is really gearing up for the tourism that will soon start coming in with hotels and guesthouses popping up everywhere.  Someone has also taught all the local children the incredibly annoying phrase “Hello, money!” which they use at every sighting of a foreign tourist.  We decided to move on after seeing the caves because, as with all towns that are new to tourism, the people where generally unpleasant and the foreign tourist price mark-up offensive.  However, the caves were definitely worth the visit and the scenery in the surrounding area was absolutely stunning to cycle through.