I picked Phong Nah on a whim, as a rest stop on my way from Hoi An to Ha Noi. It ended up being so much more than a stopover spot. The area is breathtakingly beautiful and historically significant. An ideal place for rest/relaxation and to get in a little outdoor time.
As a solo female traveler who likes a good adventure and some moderate trekking--the Tu LAN tour was perfect.
We began the day picking up the gear- life jackets, helmet and headlamp, boots (they have limited sizes and aren't the highest quality so if you have water shoes or hybrid hiking sandals- wear them!)
TIP: If you visit in the winter, dress appropriately--it definitely gets cool--wear layers and a wind/water proof jacket over a bathing suit. There are guides and porters with dry bags to carry your camera or clothing through the wetter parts of the trek.
The first part of the trek, you must cross a river that, depending on the time of year, may be as high as your waist. The first cave is dry. After seeing the first cave, a picnic style lunch is served--and though nothing fancy, is definitely fun/satisfying. **I felt they could have provided a bit more water--they only had thermoses to share. I tend to drink a lot and didn't feel I had enough.
After lunch you'll make a trek up and down 2 rugged hills/limestone mountains and into the next cave. There are some very steep spots to climb throughout the second half of the day, but there are plenty of good foot/hand holds so it's never too difficult. In the second cave you must swim (100 meters or so or deep water) in order to get out. The water is frigid cold, though it is a pretty cool experience. You still must make the hike back, so I suggest either bringing a dry set of clothes or just wearing your suit for the swim. Hot Coffee is served after the cold swim.
Our guide was knowledgable and friendly and spoke good-enough English. We ended the day with free beers/hot tea and make the rather long drive (over an hour) back to Phong Nah.
Overall an excellent, well run tour, well worth the price... Something that would be nearly impossible to do on your own/without a guide. A definite highlight of my time in Southeast Asia so far...
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