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Son Doong Cave – Tourism a no-no for world’s biggest cave

Son Doong Cave is based in Quang Binh, in the North Central part of Vietnam, midway between Danang and Hanoi. At the moment, the cave is only available to visit between February and August and closed from September to January due to flood.

Discovered in 2009, Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh, Vietnam, is currently the biggest cave known by mankind.


This giant is the champion in every aspect. The entire cave is approximately 9 kilometers long with the largest chamber of 200 meters wide and 150 meters high. With such a scale, Son Doong can comfortably host an entire city with NYC’s skyscrapers of up to 40 stories or allow a 747 to fly through. The cave is as twice as large as its runner-up, Deer Cave in Malaysia. Stalagmites in Son Doong are also among the tallest in the world with some towering over 70 meters high.


Not only exceptional in size, Son Doong is also ranked by BBC News as the most beautiful cave all over the globe. If you have ever watched James Cameron’s Avatar, you may find Son Doong more or less similar to the scenes on Planet Pandora. Untouched by humans and abnormally large, Son Doong has its own river, jungle and climate. Yes, river, jungle, and climate within the cave! The huge temperature difference between the air inside and outside creates a constantly hovering clouds of mist that gives rise to a miraculous and surreal atmosphere.

Son Doong was discovered by a local lumberjack named Ho Khanh. Although only in 2009 was the discovery officially announced by the British Cave Research Association, Ho Khanh’s first encounter with the giant was actually in 1991, during one of his logging trip. At that moment, Ho Khanh never knew that he had discovered the world’s largest grotto. Indeed, the powerful and mysterious wind blowing from inside the cave scared him as he thought it was one of the cave monsters in local mythology.


Son Doong became open for commercial expedition in 2013. Since then, it has attracted throngs of adventurers who want to have the extraordinary and unique experience of discovering the biggest cave on Earth.

How to get there

Son Doong is located in Son Trach, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. There is currently no paved road leading to the cave and the journey to the cave is an adventure itself. It will take you about 6 hours to walk 10 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh Highway into the dense tropical forest of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park to reach the mouth of Son Doong.


By Air

The nearest airport is Dong Hoi Airport, which lies in the capital city Dong Hoi of Quang Binh province. There are several ways to get to Dong Hoi. For hardcore adventurers who cannot resist the urge to enter the cave as soon as possible, flying is the optimal option as it will save both time and energy.

Vietnam Airlines offers flights from Hanoi to Dong Hoi while Vietjet Airs offers flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi on daily basis. Travel time is around one hour for both.

By train

Alternatively, you can board the Reunification Express trains. Because Vietnam has a lengthy S-shape, there are train services from various cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hue, Vinh, etc. to Dong Hoi. Travel time varies with distance from your starting point.

Buses and taxies are available too, offering more route options and flexibility. Prices and travel time also vary with starting destinations and service providers.
From Dong Hoi, you will be transferred to Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park and then to the trekking point on Road 20 of Ho Chi Minh Highway, by bus. Therefrom, the only vehicle available is your own feet. To reach Son Doong, it will take you around one day to traverse through forests, hills, and rivers so some fitness and endurance are required. Along the way, you will visit an ethnic village called Ban Doong and spend the night in Hang En Cave.


Best time to visit

The best time of the year to visit Son Doong is from February to August. From February to April, the weather is cool and mild, perfectly suitable for trekking in the cave. However, it can be quite cold at night so be prepared to bring along some trekking jackets. From May to August, the weather is often hot and humid, making the expedition more arduous and challenging. From September to January, the cave is closed as the flood also makes it impossible to access to the caves during this time of the year.

Location: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

* Photo courtesy by John Spies, Jason Speth and form Internet

Central Highlands

November, the best time to visit these awesome Vietnamese destinations

As chilly November arrives it is the best time to pay a visit to these places.Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Ha Giang Province nestles in the mountains of northern Vietnam. It is home to ethnic minorities like the H’Mong, Thai and others. Visitors to the province can witness exotic local lifestyles.

The wildness of its nature is the captivating feature of Ha Giang. The province attracts many motorbike riders and trekkers every year. Mother Nature has gifted Ha Giang with diverse scenery with mighty rocky mountains, golden rice terraces and, in November, magnificent white and magenta fields of buckwheat flowers.

Buckwheat is among the staple grains of the locals, and is usually cultivated after the summer-fall rice crop every year. Now buckwheat flowers have bloomed all over mountain slopes in Dong Van District.

This year the annual buckwheat flower festival starts on November 10 with cultural activities, traditional games and a buckwheat flower competition.

1,000-year-old capital, Hanoi

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

November may mark the start of winter in many places, but in Hanoi autumn lingers. This is arguably the best time of the year to visit the city, when it wears a whole new façade with the renowned hoa sua (milk flower) and streets gilded with fallen golden leaves and cuisine specialties.

Photo by VnExpress

Photo by VnExpress

In November do not miss a walk through Hanoi’s most romantic streets, Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu and Tran Phu. The hoa sua (milk flower) have bloomed all over these streets, giving off a glorious aroma.

Visitors can also explore the maze of alleys in the old quarter to find autumn specialties like green rice, green rice cake and ragworm, or sit by an open-air café in the cool wind and enjoy a cup of Vietnamese egg coffee.

The ancient citadel of Hue

Photo by Quoc Viet

November heralds autumn in Hue in central Vietnam. Hue typically expects pleasant weather and less rain this month, perfect for tourists to take a trip around the royal citadel and mighty tombs of old kings.

The Hue citadel complex holds in itself the historical legacy of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last imperial rulers of Vietnam. The tombs of the Nguyen kings are situated around Hue’s suburbs, which can be reached by car or motorbike.

The Hue cuisine is not to be missed. Mussels with rice/noodles, Hue beef noodles, steamed rice cake and tapioca dumplings are among the must-try dishes in the city. In the cool weather of autumn, the spicy mussels with rice can warm your stomach, and a bowl of beef noodles can give you a nutritious fix for a whole day of exploration.

Tree marigold in Gia Lai

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai Province is in the Central Highlands and has a tropical highland climate. Tourists should visit the province in the dry season in November or December. This is when the rice terraces on the hill slopes are ripe and marigolds have painted the paths yellow.

Tourists can stay in Pleiku City, the center of Gia Lai. One place to visit is the Gia Lai Museum where cultural and historical relics of the local ethnic groups are preserved.

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

The Chu Dang Ya volcano is a must-visit place for flower lovers since it has the best scenes of blooming tree marigold. The volcano is situated in Chu Dang Ya Commune, Chu Pah District, 30 kilometers to the northeast of Pleiku. Locals can give you directions, so if you are lost do not worry.

Da Lat, the city of dreams

Da Lat City is among the favorite destinations for tourists visiting Vietnam. The rainy season has ended in early November, so it is a good time to visit this city.

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

In Da Lat, you can visit the Valley of Love, Da Lat train station, Golden Valley, and Langbiang Mountain.

Da Lat is also in the Central Highlands, so tourists can expect to see tree marigold here.

The best floral scenes can be found at Da Lat University, Pham Hong Thai Street and the Minh Hoa seminary.

Source: By Minh Quan (VNEXPRESS)

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Bach Ma National Park: the ‘sleeping beauty’ of central Vietnam

Thua Thien-Hue – Bach Ma National Park, one of the biggest and most important protected areas in Vietnam, boasts vast, untapped eco-tourism potential and, as such, the central province of Thua Thien-Hue is working to capitalise on this advantage.

Bach Ma National Park is one of the biggest and most important protected areas in Vietnam (Photo:Bach Ma National Park is one of the biggest and most important protected areas in Vietnam (Photo:

Bach Ma National Park is one of the biggest and most important protected areas in Vietnam (Photo:

The park covers nearly 37,500ha across nine communes and two towns in Thua Thien-Hue province’s Phu Loc and Nam Dong districts, as well as Da Nang city’s Hoa Vang district.

With a favourable geographic location and mounting to heights of 1,000-1,440m, it has a stable temperature (16-22 degrees Celsius) and humidity all year round with annual rainfall averaging 3.4-4m.

Home to 16,900ha of primeval forests, it harbours 1,406 species of flora, including many rare types like cho chi (parashorea chinensis), kien (hopea pierrei hance), and go (afzelia xylocarpa). More than 300 precious herbal plants have been found here such as ba gac (rauvolfia verticillata), binh voi (stephania glabra miers), and la khoi (ardisia silvestris).

Bach Ma National Park is also home to 931 species of fauna – including 83 rare mammal species such as bear, leopard, tiger, and sao la (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis); 333 bird species; 31 reptile species; 21 frog species; 39 fish species; and 218 butterfly species.

Upon visiting the park, tourists will have a chance to explore nature trails such as the Tri Sao Trail that leads to Tri Sao Waterfall, whose vicinity is home to many tri sao birds (rheinardia ocellata), and the Ngu Ho (Five Lakes) Trail that leads to a group of interconnected lakes.

Moving along the Vong Hai Dai (Sea Watch Tower) Trail, visitors will reach an observation tower on Mount Bach Ma, and from here they can have gain a view of the scenic Hai Van Pass, Mount Tuy Van, Cau Hai Lagoon, Tu Hien Estuary, Chan May Port, as well as the cities of Hue and Da Nang.

In 1932, French colonialists built a resort area in Bach Ma that included 139 villas, a market, a bank, a post office, a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a 19km-long road system linking the centre of Bach Ma with what is now National Highway 1A.

Those villas have been renovated for tourism purposes and now bear such names as Do Quyen, Sao La, and Kim Giao.

To improve the management, conservation, and utilisation of the park’s values and to attract investment in eco-tourism services, the People’s Committee of Thua Thien-Hue is outlining key areas for developing eco-tourism area within the park.

Vice Chairman of the committee Nguyen Van Phuong described Bach Ma National Park as a “sleeping beauty”, with unique eco-tourism potential and advantages. Authorities are also working to assess possible environmental impact so as to develop tourism in the most sustainable manner.

Source: Vietnamplus

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Five destinations with terrific terraced fields for an October visit in Vietnam

It is harvest season, and the terraced rice fields are at their most beautiful.

The terraced fields are ripening, creating amazing scenery throughout the highlands of Vietnam. If you are a person who enjoys lovely landscapes, you should check out these places for a green and gold treat.

1. Sapa

Sapa, situated 300 kilometers away from Hanoi, attracts tourists throughout the year. But the two months of autumn is when Sapa, a town in the northern province of Lao Cai, becomes truly beautiful. During the harvest season, from the mountains down into the valleys is a stunning yellow and green carpet.

The best place in Sapa is Muong Hoa Valley with villages like Ta Van, Ta Phin, Cat Cat, and Sin Chai being your main focus since the terraced fields look the best here.

Grilled salmon on tinfoil in Sapa.

Grilled salmon on tinfoil in Sapa.

Sapa is famous for salmon, sturgeon and mountain vegetables. The sturgeon and salmon are farmed in small lakes in mountain villages.

There are also street food vendors who serve bamboo tube rice with barbecued chicken and other snacks.

Lodging in Sapa is pretty cheap. A night in town will cost you only around VND300,000 ($13). You can get even cheaper prices in homestays and mountain villages, with a night’s stay costing VND100,000 ($4.2).

Sapa is cold at night and early morning. So carry a light jacket or a windbreaker. Also remember to carry a face mask to protect your nose and throat from the cold. When walking around the terraced fields, it’s best to wear a pair of boots to avoid getting dirty because sometimes it can get really muddy.

2. Pu Luong

Autumn is the best time to visit Pu Luong, a nature reserve in Thanh Hoa Province 170 kilometers away from Hanoi. The weather at Pu Luong is cool throughout the year, even in summer. In autumn Pu Luong, where it is harvest season, is magnificent with its golden rice fields creating a carpet extending from village to village.

This nature reserve also has a 1,700-meter mountain with the same name. Pu Luong Mountain is among trekkers’ favorite spots. Normally it takes six to eight hours to reach the top if the weather is good. From there you can get a panoramic view of the grand and marvelous valley.

Pho Don Market is well worth a visit in Pu Luong. It only opens on Thursday and Sunday every week. You can buy souvenirs like brocade textile and try local treats like sweet/savory doughnut, fruits and mountain vegetables.

Mountain villages like Hieu, Don and Kho Muong are also places you should check out for terraced fields.

Co Lung grilled duck

Co Lung grilled duck

A variety of delicacies can be found in Pu Luong such as grilled fish, stir-fried chicken, roasted pork marinated with Indian pepper, and bamboo shoot soup. But the most special dish in Pu Luong is grilled Co Lung duck. The meat is tender and fragrant since it’s grilled on charcoal. A whole roasted duck costs about VND450,000 ($19.4) and is good for three or four people.

A homestay in Pu Luong

A homestay in Pu Luong

There is currently only one resort in Pu Luong named Pu Luong Retreat and it is usually full. But there are many hostels and homestays there. Some notable places are Pu Luong Hostel, Tho Ha Homestay, Pu Luong Rice Road, and Pu Luong Tree House and their prices range from VND150,000 to 250,000 ($6.5 to 10.8) per night.

A good pair of walking shoes is recommended in Pu Luong. Also remember to take a bottle of insect repellent because there can be a lot of mosquitoes at night.

3. Mu Cang Chai

There are 2,200 hectares of terraced rice fields in Mu Cang Chai, including 500 ha in the three communes of La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and De Xu Phinh, which have been recognized as national landscapes by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The terraced fields here are recognized as one of the unique landscapes of Vietnam. Mu Cang Chai has become a popular destination in early October every year when the rice harvest starts.

Terrace parade of course is the way to go here. You can check out the terraced fields in valleys like Tu Le, La Pan Tan or Khau Pha , one of the four imposing mountain passes in the northwest of Vietnam. Although Mu Cang Chai is poor and relatively underdeveloped, it has a very rich natural environment

Tu Le ground green rice flakes.

Tu Le ground green rice flakes.

There are many delicacies in Mu Cang Chai, especially roasted black pig, salmon salad, Tu Le sticky rice, and bee chrysalis.

Mu Cang Chai is usually very crowded during the harvest season, and so you should book in advance if you want to go in October. The price for a night here is about VND300,000 ($13) at motels and VND100,000 ($4.3) if you choose a homestay.

Avoid driving on rainy days because the mountain road here is steep and can be really slippery.

4. Hoang Su Phi

Ha Giang Province, a neighbor of Lao Cai, is famous for its stunning mountain scenery and its border commune of Hoang Su Phi has probably the best terrace rice fields in Vietnam. The terraced fields of Hoang Su Phi were recognized as a national relic in 2012. There are around 3,000 hectares of terraces here.

You will never get tired of looking at these wonderful terraced beauties. The best terraces here are in villages like San Sa Ho, Ban Phung and Ho Thau.

Grilled mouse meat in Hoang Su Phi

Grilled mouse meat in Hoang Su Phi

You can try mouse meat in Hoang Su Phi in the form of dishes like roasted and low-heat grilled. Some say the meat tastes like chicken. Mice are an essential food for the La Chi ethnic people in Ha Giang. They also serve fried fish caught in the terraced rice fields.

There aren’t many places to stay in Hoang Su Phi because tourism has not developed much here. But you can find some homestays in the villages or motels in Vinh Quang Town for VND250,000 to 550,000 ($10.8 to 23.7) a night.

The weather in Hoang Su Phi is starting to get cold at night and in the early morning, so be sure to take a jacket with you. And be careful when you drive on the road from Ha Giang city to Hoang Su Phi because it’s narrow, winding and filled with trucks.

5. Y Ty

Y Ty is a commune in Lao Cai Province around 400 kilometers away from Hanoi. When autumn arrives, Y Ty is adorned with golden terraced rice fields and smells of grass. It is a relatively unknown place despite its wonderful landscapes.

To see terraces, you can visit A Lu and Den Thang rice fields. To catch a view of clouds, you can try trekking on the Nhi Cu San mountain range. Other attractions include the intersection of Lung Po Stream and the Red River and the Den Sang cardamom forest.

If you want to know more about the cultures of the ethnic people here, make sure to check out Lao Chai 1 and Lao Chai 2 villages, where the Ha Nhi people live.

A market day in Y Ty

A market day in Y Ty

The delicacies in Y Ty are pretty similar to other places in the northern highlands with roasted pig, chicken, mountain vegetables – but they are only cooked on festive occasions or market days. You can get regular food such as noodles and rice on normal days.

There are no hotels or resorts in Y Ty yet. But you can check out some homestays here and they cost only around VND70,000 ($3) though they have amenities like electricity, water and wifi. If the homestays are full up, you can even spend the night at the border station in Y Ty.

A pair of trekking shoes will be ideal for Y Ty since the roads here are quite muddy and slippery. And remember to carry some food since there aren’t many restaurants here.

Story by Tuan Hoang, Kieu Duong, Khanh Tran
Photos by Thao Linh, Huy Thang, Hoang Anh

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