The rating is difficult, because the Park is wonderfulbut the tour we took was not. We visited the Park two days ago on a tour arranged by Phong Nha Farmstay. We enjoyed the natural beauty and the spectacular Paradise Cave, but had concerns about the Farmstay guides, as follows: The guides were Bill (an American) and Peter (an Australian, i believe). From the beginning, they spoke very derisively about the Vietnamese people and Asians in general, using many stereotypes. My wife objected and they apologized, but they went on to include many negative comments and stereotypes, apparently without realizing they were doing it. In addition, they spoke quite flippantly about matters from the war, and they appeared to have at best a superficial understanding of the war history, and of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. I served with USAID in Vietnam 1969-1971, and received training in the Vietnamese language, history and culture, and I believe neither of them had sufficient knowledge of (or indeed interest in) those subjects to be speaking to groups about them. Bill at one point essentially admitted that when he didn't know something he made up an answer, like "puffing" in his former real estate job.
I also felt they were disrespectful to the Vietnamese drivers. Bill at one point said very clearly that he preferred Laotians to Vietnamese, impugning the honesty of the Vietnamese people. That was within earshot of Mr. Bao, our driver.
I also had concerns about their stewardship of the National Park. Members of our group were touching features in the Paradise cave. Neither of the guides accompanied us into the cave to monitor that. Also, in the second cave where we swam, people were putting their hands everywhere and nothing was said or done about that. In fact, Bill put his fingers on fossils he pointed out to us. When my wife asked about that, he said he had only used his fingernail., But I question that. They also had us do several things they instructed us to not to talk about, saying the Vietnamese government would kick them or us out of the park or out of the country if they knew - that they were monitoring blogs etc. When we passed a beautiful karst cliff on the way out, Bill said he planned to shoot climbing pegs into it, painting them so they would not be noticeable. He said he had been told that if he asked permission he would be denied, so to just do it.
I also was surprised at their lack of concern for our safety. They seemed to make a joke of it in most instances. There were a couple of falls that could have been serious, which they laughed off. They also failed to give us clear instructions in the walk/swim through the second cave, and at one point Bill, who was leading, took one group so far ahead that I, waiting for others, had to find my own way. Peter took no headlamp into the cave, saying he had forgotten to. Peter was actually disrespectful to several members of the group, at times being quite sarcastic. At the end of the tour, he badgered group members into drinking shots of whiskey, no doubt to get them in a happy mood to say good things about the day.
I sent this note to the Farmstay people yesterday, asking for their response, but have heard nothing from them.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.