Visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang during Rain Season
If, like me, you did 0 research before coming to Phong Nha Ke Bang, you may very well be visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang during rain season. The rain season begins in mid September and can last until mid October. During this time, you can expect it to rain non-stop for weeks at a time, and for the occasional typhoon to drop more water than you ever imagined. Now some of you may think this is a negative thing, but after visiting this wonderful place in the middle of the rain season, I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience. Visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang during rain season could honestly be considered a great alternative way to travel in Vietnam. Before going into detail on why I believe it to be great to visit during the rain season, here is a brief overview of this incredible national park.
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha Ke Bang national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about 4 hours north of Hue. What makes this site so special? Its luscious green nature, 15 story-high rock formations that bulge out of the ground creating a grandiose and powerful natural ambiance, and most recently the discovery of some of the world’s largest caves.
At anytime throughout the year, you can expect this place to completely wow you. Having already travelled to over 20 countries, I have to say this is one of the world’s most beautiful and jaw dropping landscapes of the world. It even rivals with Ha Long Bay in terms of natural beauty, offering beautiful landscapes with much less tourists. The area is currently in full development, so I strongly recommend visiting it before it becomes as famous as Ha Long bay, Mui Ne, Cat Ba, and the other cities on the beaten track.
Phong Nha Ke Bang Caves
The main attractions or Phong Nha Cave, the Dark Cave, and Paradise Cave. Unfortunately I only had time to visit Paradise Cave, so I invite you to check out this great article by NOMADasaurus about the Dark Cave, and by Holidaze about Phong Nha Cave.
Imagine the largest cathedral you have ever seen in your life. Now imagine putting 10 of those cathedrals next to each other. Then imagine placing a mountain around these cathedrals. Then remove the cathedrals, leaving a massive hole in the mountain. Add a few small rivers at the bottom of this hole, and there you have it, Paradise Cave.
The entrance – After walking about 1 km up to the entrance, you will finally get to the entrance. It looks like nothing special, so you tell yourself, did I really just pay 250,000 Dong for a tiny cave. But just wait.
The first glance – As you begin walking down into the cave, you immediately grasp the sheer size of this rock formation. Never in my life have I seen such a large cave, and I don’t expect I will unless if I go to Khe San, which is the world’s largest known cave.
The first turn – You may have thought it was huge when walking down the steps, but as soon as you turn the corner, you begin to fully understand just how big it really is.
The rest – As you keep walking, the cave’s gigantic size continues to impress for over 1KM.
Off-the-beaten track – You can reserve the larger 7 km tour, which continues into the smaller areas of the cave. I have not done it, but would recommend it if you have the time and money to do it!
Benefits of Visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang during rain season
There are many benefits to visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang during the rain season.
Less people – There are a lot less travelers, both international and local, during the rain season. This leaves the caves and natural attractions to you, rather than having to compete with 1000s of people to take a good picture. There is also less noise, which is awesome when you are visiting natural landmarks. Still, make sure to go visit Paradise Cave early in the morning to avoid the Chinese Tour Groups with Megaphones.
Cheaper Hostels – Due to the fact that there are less people, the hostels are much cheaper and you can expect to negotiate your price down much more easily.
The Botanical Garden waterfalls are HUGE – Going to Phong Nha Ke Bang and not visiting and swimming in the waterfalls would be an unfortunate mistake. For only 40,000 Dong you can see one of the nicest waterfalls I have seen in Vietnam (I would say it was more impressive than those in Da Lat as there were much more wild and untamed).
If waterfalls aren’t enough, you can also check out beautiful peacocks!
Real People – The people we met during our stay where those that were not afraid of the rain. You have more chance of meeting the alternative type of person during this season.
Beautiful Mystical Scenery – If you rent a motorbike and go explore the national park, expect to ride amongst the clouds, creating a beautiful scenery that could not be seen during any other time of the year. The mystical sensation that is created from the clouds stuck in the mountains is worth the trip.
Negatives of Visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang during rain season
The main negative is the possibility that the caves are closed. During rain season the Dark Cave is often closed, and Paradise Cave can also close. During our first day in Phong Nha Ke Bang all the major caves were closed. This is certainly a risk, but for us it worked out nicely as it forced us to go out and explore the park on the first day, and when the caves opened on the second day we got to see them with much less people than there usually would be. In the event that the caves are all closed (which would suck), I would still say this place is worth the visit. The natural landscapes alone make it completely worth it.
Wet and Humid Environment – You can expect to be wet all the time. If this is something you can’t stand than I don’t recommend going during rain season. Keep in mind that you would probably be wet from going to the Dark Caves or swimming in waterfalls, so it’s not as bad as you would think to be a bit wet all day!
How to get to Phong Nha Ke Bang
The best ways to get to this national park is by taking a bus from Hue or Hanoi, or by motorbike. You can take a bus from Hue for 150,000 Dong, or from Hanoi for 280,000 Dong.
Alternative Ways Tip – Finding a Hostel or Hotel
If you look online or on Hostelworld you will only see a select few hostels available, which would make you believe you should book online ahead of time. DON’T! I strongly recommend waiting until you get there to choose your hostel as there are about 5 times as many hostels and hotels as it looks like when you check online. As soon as you get there, you will see a plethora of backpacker hostels and hotels, and as they are desperate to fill their rooms, you can definitely negotiate your price down a bit. This is especially true during rain season, as there are a lot less people.
Although this information is probably different than that of pretty much every other travel blog out there, I honestly believe it to be true as I have personally lived it. Whether it be rain season or not, Phong Nha Ke Bang is one of the top 5 places to go in Vietnam in my opinion. It is one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and is still mostly untouched by the large scale tourist industry. If you are someone who travels to see natural landscapes, I implore you not to skip this place, no matter which season you are traveling in.
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The Alternative Ways
I love travelling in off season! I’ve been to Tanzania 3 times in the rainy season then once in the dry season and I honestly think if I’d done it in reverse I wouldn’t have gone back so many times. You get a much more special experience when there are less tourists and those who are there seem to be more interesting as you pointed out. I can’t wait to visit Vietnam and it’s nice to know it’s worth visiting all year round!