Disclaimer: Mum, this story is fictional…
After arriving back from a two night get away in Halong Bay, myself and Andrea decided we would get an overnight sleeper bus to Dong Hoi the same day. We power walked back to our hotel from the travel office, dodging traffic & grabbed some takeaway pizza for the overnight trip.
The sleeper bus was our first & it was definitely an experience. As was trying to reach the toilet in the early hours with Vietnamese people scattered along the bus floor sleeping! (Overcrowding on buses is a common issue with un-reputable travel companies in South East Asia). However, after the ten hour bus journey and minimal sleep; we made it to our destination. Well, we were in Dong Hoi but in the middle of a random dusty lot at 5am in the dark. It was also raining, which Vietnam does… A LOT.
Then, our knight in shinning armor appeared; A motorcycle taxi man! After sleepily haggling for a cheaper price to take us to the train station, so we knew where we were, it appeared that there was only one motor taxi for the driver, our 4 backpacks, and us. We took the ride and arrived at the train station. We then took a very expensive taxi, (£14 actually but it felt like an awful lot at the time) to our hotel. When we arrived, we were told they were fully booked and had notified us by email after we had left for the sleeper bus. Exhausted and frustrated, the hotel nicely offered us a free ride to Easy Tiger; A nice friendly hostel near Pho Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
After the motorcycle and hotel debacle, we missed the leaving time for the tour to visit Paradise Cave and the only other option would be to hire a moped and drive there ourselves! After looking at the fear in Andrea’s eyes, I knew I would have to swallow my first time riding concerns, take one for the team and man up. After an hour or so of mental preparation, (It would have been quite funny to watch actually), we spoke to a couple of boys from the hostel and they said they would direct us to the caves. Half way there and a wrong turn later, the boys had to bail in fear of missing their dirt bike tour, so it was all on us!
The first testing moment of our map orienteering was when we approached a gorge of red mud at the end of a dirt road. After careful consideration, I believed the best thing to do, (I was a complete idiot in this assumption), was to drive through it quickly. Needless to say, we both ended up in the mud. My right leg was engulfed in wet, red dirt up to my knee & Andrea took refuge on the dry mud pile while I fished the bike out of the water. Other highlights included a very confusing 10-minute conversation with road guards about directions, (who in the end pointed straight on) & hi-fiving local kids as we drove past to the caves.
It was all worth it when we arrived at Paradise Cave; which is said to be the longest dry cave in the entire world! Check out my twitter page to see the stalactites inside the cave.
Even though we were apprehensive to drive the moped up to the caves, it was probably one of the best days of our trip so far. Look how ridiculously happy we are…