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Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to be highlighted at ITE HCMC 2017

August 26, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

During the upcoming International Travel Expo in Ho Chi Minh City during 7-9 September (ITE HCMC 2017), the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) will surely highlight its natural world heritage site of Phong Na-Ke Bang National Park, which is an outstanding example of Viet Nam’s beautiful landscapes. While the more famous Ha Long Bay with its 3,000 islands and the long stretch of picturesque beaches from north to south are quite well-known to tourists, the inland located karst mountains and caves in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park are still waiting to get discovered by the more and more adventurous tourists to come.

Located about 50 km inland from the coastal provincial city of Dong Hoi in Quang Binh, some 500 km south of Ha Noi and some 200 km north of Hue, the cave system was recognized in 2001 as the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in order to protect not only the cave system but also the lush surrounding forestland with its rich biodiversity. Encompassing an area of 41,132 ha, the whole national park was successfully inscribed onto the UNESCO Natural World Heritage list in July 2003. The only ethnic minorities living in the park are sub-groups of the Bru and the Chut. During the Vietnam War (1960-1973) the cave system was used for shelter during bombing raids, while it was a key entrance point to the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Phong Nha’s importance and beauty was well-known by the Vietnamese since the 16th century and the cave already used by the Cham people as a Hindu sanctuary, when the Cham occupied Central Viet Nam during the 2nd to 15th centuries. It was French missionary Leopold Cadiere in the late 19th century, who discovered a Cham inscription in the Bi Ki grotto, and only since 1920 the area was promoted as a tourist destination. Today, more than 65,000 people live in the buffer zone of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, while the 475 aboriginal hunters and gatherers inside the park were resettled by giving them developing alternative livelihood activities, such as growing vegetables and raising chickens.

The Phong Nha Cave or Hang Phong Nha is over 7.5 km long and features several grottoes and chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites formed by wind and water erosions. After flowing about 19 km underground, the Song Son River emerges from the mouth of the cave, draining the huge limestone area of the mountains around Phong Nha Cave. Actually, visitors can only enter up to a distance of 600 m by boat. But in the rainy season in September/October sometimes the whole entrance is blocked, but walking along the riverfront in the early morning or evening in front of the cave is rewarding.

The Fairy Cave or Hang Tien Son is some 150 m above Phong Nha Cave and is 980m long. Filled with enormous columns of stalactites and stalagmites, visitors can enter into the cave for some 400 m along a winding pathway, but must be very careful when walking. The cave seems not to be connected with the Phong Nha Cave down under.

The Paradise Cave or Hang Thien Duong is about 30 km away from the Phong Nga Cave and features hundreds of stalactites and stalagmites along a wooden walkway and is illuminated for 700 m. After a 5 km of dry passage, it meets the main river passage of Hang Vom or Arch Cave, which is some 15 km long.

The Swallow Cave or Hang En can only be reached after a 5 hour hike through beautiful primeval forest. The cave is 1,645 m long and has three entrances, which makes it quite unique from any other cave in the area. From this giant cave, it is possible to continue to Hang Son Doong Cave or Mountain River Cave, which seems the largest cave passage in the world, first discovered in 1990. It is presently measured at 8.5 km in total length, 150 m high and 200 m wide over most of its length. Its towering stalagmites have been estimated to be taller than 70 m. White spiders and scorpions were found there. As the cave is located within dense forest, it is not yet open to visitors and future discoveries are expected in the future.

Although much of the area of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was damaged during the Vietnam War, today primary forest is everywhere. The park and the surrounding area is home to around 735 vertebrate animals and around 2,694 vascular plant species. Endemic animals, monkeys and birds abound. Awareness of the fragile environment is necessary and nature conservation is a must. The Nuoc Mooc Eco-Trail features an underwater spring of the Chay River within the national park and is good for swimming. It is managed by the Tourism Centre in Phong Nga. A War Memorial and a small history museum can be visited, while a local market area is for shopping and restaurants are available.

There are about 20 hotels and guesthouses in Phong Nha, farm stay is possible some 8 km out of town and Rustic Chay Lap is operating as home stay. Regular flights and trains connect Ha Noi and Saigon with Dong Hoi. A daily bus service runs from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha in not even two hours time, while Road Nr.20 continues to the Lao border. Vestiges of the Ho Chi Minh Trail can be visited, also the Thac Mo Waterfall.

The area, which so far is visited by more than 300,000 visitors every year, will develop even more quickly, especially when a recently new international route from Chiang Mai/Thailand to the airport in Dong Hoi in Quang Binh by Jetstar Pacific with two weekly flights on Mondayand Friday, operated by an Airbus A320, with 180 seats, will bring in international tourists directly on a big scale.

Written by : Reinhard Hohler

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