Spelunking in Phong Nha

Phong Nha (pronounced fong-nyah) is a small town next to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. This is limestone country, and there are a tonne of huge caves under the surrounding mountains and forests. The largest cave in the world is here, although it costs US$3,000 to visit and gets booked out a year in advance.

We were not that rich or prepared, so instead we visited three other caves in the area: Paradise Cave, Dark Cave and Phong Nha Cave (+ Tien Son Cave). I think these are basically the three main caves that tourists visit on day trips. We took a tour to visit the first two, the best way to visit independently would be with a motorbike which we weren’t too keen to do. Mainly I was too scared. The third cave is easy to visit by yourself.

Our tour group was about ten people in a mini-van along with our guide, Viet, and a driver. First up we went to the eight ladies temple which is in a small cave. This area is right at the beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail so was heavily bombed during the war. At one point eight people were sheltering in the cave during a bombing raid and a huge boulder was dislodged by a bomb. The locals were unable to move the boulder, although they could hear the people inside the cave. Such a sad story. The cave wasn’t opened up again for another 20 years.

Incense at eight ladies temple

Incense outside the eight ladies temple

After this sombre start to the day it was off to Paradise Cave.

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Exploring Batu Caves

After Singapore we’re a bit sick of big cities so we decided to only stay in Kuala Lumpur for two nights. Today was our one and only full day, so we had to make the most of it.

Batu Caves is apparently one of the most visited tourist attractions in Malaysia so it seemed the obvious choice. We like caves. With some googling we discovered this morning that there is a dress code and women need to cover their knees. I had yet to buy a suitable skirt or pants for this purpose. The only trousers I have are Cactus pants and there is no way I could wear them in these temperatures. My legs would just be rivers of sweat. Off to the market we went.

Last night there were a tonne of stalls but this morning a lot of them were still opening up. We found one of the ubiquitous hippy pant/sarong/t-shirt stalls and I picked out some blue pants with elephants on them. Basically by trying to leave to have a look at other stalls I bartered the price down from 25 ringgit to 15 ringgit (about NZ$5). I have no idea if this is a good price or not but it was lucky I went for it as we didn’t actually see any other stalls open selling pants.

We hopped on the Komuter train using our Touch’n’go cards. Totally becoming such public transport experts. We’re also collecting prepaid cards for a variety of international cities. It was super easy to get to Batu Caves which is the last stop.

batu-caves-entrance

Brittany at the entrance to Temple Cave

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