First, Oxalis is a top-notched tour company with awesome staff. I had the pleasure of connecting with Luke Ford, Jamie Lynn McNulty, Howard, Deb, Thanh, Uyp, and so many more individuals who I forgot your names (I apologize!) but, will never forget our interactions (except I will forget my arm wrestling loss to Quang). Everyone was kind, completely attentive to our safety and needs, and had a friendly and welcoming disposition.
I will warn people, however. The 6 day trek to Hang Son Doong caverns is fairly difficult for a person like me. I surf almost everyday and if I am not, I swim, run, hike, or do yoga. I am fairly active but, am certainly not a full-time caver/spelunker. I chuckle at the selections below (Does this attraction have the following?). Oxalis provided the food so I didn't have to purchase anything. There are bathroom facilities (very breezy facilities, actually), stairs/sort-of-an-elevator, not so much wheelchair access in the cave, you carry your locker/storage on your back, and you should probably leave the stroller at the hotel. Bathing is sparse. Smelling your fellow trekkers is a guarantee. And you will encounter the occasional spider or critter. But, it is all a part of nature and the experience that the world's largest cave will give you; and it is an AMAZING ONE! It would be difficult to find a similar trek in the United States because I can see the liabilities involved. But again, Oxalis was very cognizant of our safety.
The food provided was excellent. They made sure we had the appropriate gear and was quick to provide alternatives in case we weren't prepared. I rented the "jungle shoes" and I was glad that I did. They fit well (think high top converse with grip), dried quickly, and had adequate "feeling", hopping from rock to rock. Deb, Thanh, and Howard shared their knowledge and explained things such as the history of discovery, formations, geology, landscape, classic stories from previous adventures, current and political events affected Oxalis and the cave, and kept us all learning and entertained. And, ice-cold beer at the very end of the hike? Nice touch!
!!! There is a current initiative to install a cable car to one of the do-lines and provide a walkway. This would eliminate the tour through the cave and significantly reduce an explorer's experience. Although a small part of me would love to brag about time I trekked THROUGH the world's largest cave, rather than cable carring it to one of the do-lines =), I hope the Vietnamese Government and the powers that be have good sense to allow Oxalis to provide the minimal-footprint tour to Hang Son Doong and cancel the cable car project. Vietnam has an opportunity to educate and share with the world, how to preserve natural resources. It will have to start with decreasing pollution and disposing of garbage properly but, it could be done.
I hate the spoil the after party but, let's just say that Oxalis really took care of us at the final dinner at the hotel. That day happened to be my and a fellow traveler's birthday and they provided a birthday cake. I asked about the bakery and discovered that there were no ovens in Phong Nha (where the National Park and Son Doong is). They brought in the cake from a neighboring town. OXALIS WENT BEYOND MY EXPECTATION FROM START TO FINISH! I wish continued success to the company, Oxalis, and all the best to the staff! If you are ever in Hawaii, you have a friend!
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