A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about caves

Phong Nha National Park

Caves, bicycling, and motorbiking in rural Vietnam


Phong Nha Cave after a rough night

We arrived on the train in a town called Dong Hoi around 8am. What a surreal experience to sleep on an incredibly bumpy and loud train. The temperature was chilly as the AC blasted our small cabin. Still, we arrived in one piece and had the experience of an overnight train. We took a taxi about 45 more minutes inland to the small town of Phong Nha. We were deep into rural Vietnam! We checked into a cute place called Funny Monkeys Homestay. Our room was less than $30 per night and had a wonderful view over the river and all the dragon boats headed to Phong Nha Cave.

We had a simple breakfast at our homestay while we waited for our room to be ready. I think we snuck a stop for coffee in there too! Once we checked in, we all took short naps, cooled off, showered the train funk off, and regrouped. I loved sitting in the window seat working on this blog. We watched the dragon boats taking loads of people to Phong Nha cave but noticed traffic was slowing down considerably by 3pm. We decided to get on one of those boats ourselves! The boats are the same cost for up to twelve people. While in line, we used Google Translate to make friends to share a boat with. It worked out really well and made the cost cheaper for everyone.

So cool seeing this old-school ferry transporting motorbikes across the river!

Here we are approaching the cave. The boats took us through a cool 1 kilometer long passageway through this wet cave before dropping us off at a cave beach. Pictures never capture the enormity and impressive size of caves. This was a really great one!

After all this, it was time to eat! We started at a local seafood place for yummy calamari before moving on to a touristy but delicious restaurant called Bamboo. The passion fruit mojito was such a treat. All the dishes were delicious! Prices were a little higher in this rural area probably due to its remote location and lack of competition. We still were spending less than $20 for a meal.

On the way back, we passed some sort of Christian church that was bursting at the seems. People were on the streets singing somewhat familiar sounding hymns but in Vietnamese. It was so interesting especially since most temples we had seen so far were Taoist or Buddhist.

Good night Phong Nha.

Most Challenging Motorbike Ride, Mini Jungle Trek, and Paradise Cave

We started our day at Bamboo restaurant again. The smoothie bowl was so yummy and pretty!

We rented motorbikes and decided to challenge ourselves with a more hilly ride. Luckily the backroads were not busy because it was a challenge navigating 10% grades up and down the jungle! I was a little nervous mostly because I didn't want my motorbike to die. She was a good one and we made the journey safely.

Our first stop was the Phong Nha Botanical Garden. It was not your traditional garden, it was really just some well-organized trails through the jungle. We hiked for about an hour and found the various ropes and ladders pretty adventurous!

We drove further into the jungle to Paradise Cave. This part of the drive was extra challenging with some steep ascents and descents. The cave was beautiful, but again the pictures don't do it justice so I'll only share a couple.

No milk in the cave? Oh darn.

We headed back and took a long break cooling off in our room before ending day with dinner at an average restaurant. We had fun taking pictures of the geckos in our room. Eeek!

Bicycling to three different and random stops

We started the day with more coffee and more American things like French toast and fruit bowls with yogurt.

We rode past the Phong Nha Hollywood-style sign and challenged ourselves with at least 20 miles on some old and clunky bicycles!

The traffic on the roads was unexpected at times, to say the least.

Our first stop wasn't quite what we expected. The Duck Stop left us with some mixed feelings. It was fun feeding the ducks but it seemed a little wrong thinking of how much they eat all day long just to entertain tourists. The ducks were very cute and the staff was really friendly. I admit that the pictures are pretty entertaining but not something we'd necessarily recommend.

It was interesting to see how peppercorns are grown as well as banana flowers.

We continued on the narrow country road enjoying the view until we made it to a very pretty farm called Bong Lai Swing Nature Farm. The view was beautiful and we enjoyed their local tea, cute dogs, and DD#2 tried the giant swing.

There was also a "monkey bridge" where bicycle riders challenged themselves by riding over this crazy skinny bridge without crashing and falling into the water. There were no takers during our time here.

Check out the dump truck going across the river on this extra special "road".

Our last stop was called Pub with Cold Beer. They did have cold beer but also a nice swimming pool with more hammocks for relaxing.

We biked back to our homestay and cooled off for a while before heading out for a banh xeo appetizer. This is a crispy egg crepe stuffed with veggies and pork. It is served with fresh veggies and rice paper for you to make your own spring rolls. Delicious and fun!

We ended our evening back at Bamboo Cafe for more typical rice and noodle dishes. Tasty!

We had a great time exploring Phong Nha but were all feeling ready to back in the city.

Posted by familyineurope 00:50 Archived in Vietnam Tagged caves nha phong Comments (0)

The Slovenian Countryside

A castle, a cave, a beach, and one famous lake!


Day 11

We visited the same Venice cafe once again for yummy croissants and coffee. After packing up our things, we backtracked and took the vaporetto and the bus back to our parking spot on the mainland. It was much cooler doing this in the morning and it all went as planned. The car was waiting for our next adventure.

We drove a short distance to a mall, of all things. Teenagers still seem to like these things so we made it a lunch stop as well. Both kids scored a new shirt or two. We actually ate lunch at IKEA. Ha! They had different things at Italian IKEA such as calamari, pasta, and beer and wine. Nothing too special but it did the trick. We grabbed a few groceries at a giant hyper market because we would have a kitchen again for the next two nights.

The next stop was the beautiful Predjama castle in a new country to us, Slovenia! This is the largest cave castle in the world. The audio tour was really interesting and we were able to climb around the many levels of the castle. You could easily see where the natural cave and the manmade castle joined together. A really unique place to visit!

Finally, we checked into EkoTurizem Hudicevec. This place was fabulous! There was a huge play area with trampolines, a soccer and volleyball area, lots of animals, and we had a giant 2 bedroom apartment. We enjoyed playing frisbee, some foosball, soccer, and went for a short hike in the hills.

We ate a delicious and very unique dinner at the restaurant on the property. I actually ordered horse and it was yummy! Felt a little weird eating horse but it ended up tasting a lot like beef. DH couldn't get himself to try it and I completely understand. It was a nice way to end our first day in Slovenia.

Day 12 - Skojan Caves and Koper Beach

DH and I started the day with breakfast at the property. We enjoyed lots of local ingredients. Breakfast time ended at 8:30 which is just too early for teenagers on most days.

We had two plans for the day. A cave and the beach! We had tickets to tour Skojan caves, one of the largest caves in the world. We didn't know much about the cave and were in for an amazing experience. The cave was massive! The tour involved hundreds of stairs. One part of the cave had the largest underground chamber in Europe. It was enormous! The stalagmites were were so old and incredible. Half of the cave was "dry" and the other half had a river running through it. At one point, we crossed an incredibly high bridge above the river below. The tour was interesting and we ended up hiking 3-4 miles. It wasn't cheap to tour the cave but totally worth it for this experience. Best cave we have ever seen! I wish we were able to take pictures.

After the cave, we drove another 20 minutes or so to the beach town of Koper. Kids were hungry so we found a Bosnian place for lunch. Yum!

We found the recommended beach easily and had a great time swimming and chilling out in our little spot of shade. It felt so great to swim in the Adriatic Sea again. It was a really relaxing afternoon despite being in the upper 90s.

We found gelato in the little town before heading to another grocery store for dinner supplies. We even bought a new soccer ball for DD#2 so she could practice a bit on the trip. I made easy pasta and salad for dinner and we enjoyed more games and sports at the farm. My poor body was still sore from my dramatic Venice fall so it felt good to have a slow and relaxing evening.

Day 13 - Triglav Gorge Hike and Radovljica

We ate an easy breakfast in our room and enjoyed a last slow morning on the farm. We had a short one hour drive to our next destination, Triglav Gorge near Lake Bled.

First we found a nearby pizza place for a hearty lunch. Delicious pizzas!

We paid 5 Euros to park and another 30 Euros to walk the famous Triglav Gorge. There were timed entries and loads of people waiting to see the rushing river. I had to laugh part way through the walk because it reminded me so much of the McKenzie River in Oregon. Oregon is such a beautiful part of the world. The hike ended up being close to 5 miles and it was hot. Still, we got some beautiful pictures and enjoyed the exercise.

We checked into our first and only hostel of the trip in Radovljica, just a few kilometers from Lake Bled. The hostel was more like a hotel and very comfortable. It had air conditioning which made us very happy!

DH and I wandered around the very small old town and had happy hour. We found a traditional Slovenian place for dinner. We tried a mixed meat plate, strukli (a cheesy pasta kind of thing), Greek salad and potato croquettes. Very filling!

We ended the evening with another walk around the little town. We could hear a live music concert from the small music school in the town. There were some amazing college-aged musicians performing. All and all, this was a relaxing day without a lot of action, except for our Oregon-esque hike.

Day 14 - Glorious Lake Bled!


Wow oh wow! Lake Bled exceeded expectations. We started with an intense hike with a solid 30 minutes of steep vertical climbing where we discovered this view.

It was about 10am and the heat was still bearable but we were still a sweaty bunch. We made it down the mountain and started walking along the stunning lake shore.

After a quick beverage break, we headed up again to our 5th luge ride of the trip! This luge had a single rickety track that was not nearly as stable as the German ones. We took a chair lift to the top, loaded ourselves into some old looking cars and zoomed down the mountain. It was so steep and jerky! I usually never apply the brakes but had to on this luge. Fun but a little scary!

Next we rewarded ourselves with dessert for lunch. First time on this trip! Lake Bled is known for inventing the kremsnita cream cake so we had to try it. I especially liked the gibanica cake with poppy seeds, apples, raisins, and walnuts. So yummy!

Cute photo op along the lake.

We walked back around the lake again, got more water to drink, and finally found a shady spot where we would hang out for the next 90 minutes or so. The water felt amazing and it was one of the best swims ever. DD#1 and I made it about halfway to the island in the middle.

Goofy kids enjoying a hot day.

Lake Bled was even more beautiful than all of the pictures I had admired for years. I'm so glad we saw it from so many angles and even from in the water at the end of a special day. On to Ljubljana!

Posted by familyineurope 06:22 Archived in Slovenia Tagged beach caves lake castle bled predjama koper skojan Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]