I can't thank enough the team behind those amazing 2 days.
I booked online and exchanged a lot of emails with Mo who proved most helpful from start to finish. Ask her any questions you'd like, she's got an answer for everything.
Thant and Dai were our 2 guides for the Tu Lan expedition. They came to pick us up at our hotel and drove us to Son Trach where their base is located.
They gave us a very clear briefing and got us ready for our big adventure. We pretty much all used their boots (Cambodian military shoes, Palladium like shoes). They have sizes ranging from 36 to 46. They size big so bear this in mind if you're a size 36 they might just be too big for you. I'm glad I took them, trust me, they will get their fair share of adventure ;)
Porters will carry anything you won't need on the day so you can travel light (you'll pretty much end up carrying your helmet, head light, water and camera).
I believe we left between 10:30 and 11:00 and arrived to the first cave right on time for lunch. Lunch was basic but filling, dinner will be a delight fret not!
The second step of the day took us to base camp where we put our helmets on for the first and starting exploring our first cave :) What I would give to see the look on my face! I hadn't visited any caves before so was thrilled.
We were back to the camp right before the night fell. It was pitched dark at 6pm. Their is a changing room, 2 toilets (compost ones), a big dinner table, a hammock hut and a place to set up tents. Dinner was so so so good!!!!!
The next day we got to do more cave exploring, 3 caves in total, and heading back to Son Trach where we could change and enjoy a well deserved shower. We ate in the village next door and headed back to Phong Nha where we arrived at 3:30pm which leaves you plenty of time to either catch a bus there or head back to Dong Hoi to catch a train for other adventures.
Sundry things you should be aware of:
- safety comes first, Oxalis have extremely well trained staff, you're in good hands
- you will need to wear gloves most of the time, it's probably what I disliked the most as it was so hot but they're of great help (your hands surely wouldn't appreciate rock cuts or poison ivy burns)
- you will be given the option to chose between sleeping either in a hammock or in a tent. The hammocks can feel like a coffin and you will get really hot in them until it cools off all of a sudden around midnight. The tent will be more airy and spacious but you're up for a night on 'rock hard' floor. It's your call really. My advice would be to stay up as long as you can and sleep in the hammock then.
- as said it will be pitch dark at 6pm and you'll be done with dinner before 7pm. Bring a deck of cards to keep you busy until bed time.
- if the thought of putting on wet clothes in the morning is not appealing to you then bring a change of clothes. It wasn't so bad but bear this in mind. I felt my clothes was even wetter than the previous day ;) you'll head straight in the water so it's doable :)
- there will be bats in the caves, flying around you.
- there will also be tiny bugs, they were most annoying, so keep your torch heading up if they annoy you
- you might encounter leeches, we didn't
- mosquitoes will only bug you at the camp, that's when you need your repellent (evening and morning, you're safe at night)
- bring your cameras and smartphones if you wish to take pics, they'll be safe in a waterproof box
- invest in a go-pro before you leave, I'm gutted we didn't
- enjoy, have fun, make friends, you're up for a great adventure!
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