Before getting back on the road after Dark Cave, we had lunch with Max and Lorie. The journey back to Phong Nha was long. The ride itself was spectacular, our moto, however, was not. While the first part of our ride was mostly flat, the back part of the loop was very windy and fairly hilly. The views were incredible and we got to enjoy them a little more than we would have liked. Our moto wasn’t the best on uphills and would occasionally putter out after a long uphill. I think we stalled out 6 or 7 times on the way back. Each time we stopped for a couple minutes and had to try restarting it a few times. It always ended up starting again, luckily. We were able to rattle that shitty little moto back into Phong Nha just before the sun set.
We met our friends for dinner and drinks and celebrated our awesome day. These two are on their way to becoming teachers. They’d just gotten married and had until February before classes started. Max taught us how to play a German drinking game. We rounded up a bunch of people at the bar and something that resembled a ball and went to play in the street. Max informed us that in this game, drinking is your reward and the drunkest team is always the winningest. I can already see this being a hit at our next cookout. Unfortunately in Phong Nha, playing and yelling in the streets after midnight was a big no no so we got shut down pretty quick. We played just long enough that we’ll know how to bring Flankyball back to the US.
The next day was pretty mellow, doing our best to avoid loud noises and bright lights. It’s all good, we hadn’t taken a day off in a while so spending an extra day in our huge, cheap hotel room wasn’t such a bad thing. We met Max and Lorie for a final goodbye dinner at ‘The Best BBQ Pork and Noodles in the World… Probably‘ restaurant.
Our new friends jumped on their night bus and we said our goodbyes. Now we’ll have a place to stay with we go visit Germany. I’ve always wanted to to tomy ancestral homeland anyway, but now we’ll have a couple of great guides to show us what Germany is all about.
We had such a good trip to the Dark Cave that we thought we’d take the loop around the park again, this time with a better bike. Instead of Dark Cave we checked out Paradise Cave. We decided on taking the loop in the same direction because the first time it went well and honestly, going clockwise could’ve meant more exposure to the road crews and sand patches that dotted the road. McKayla got a bigger stretch of road this time around, doing an excellant job of dodging buffalo and bicyling children.
Paradise Cave was a mile or so passed dark cave and came with a tight and hilly entrance road that McKayla navigated well. After parking at the base, we walked up to the cave entrance via a noisy uphill paved ramp lined with hidden speakers blaring “calming” music. It was more laughable than annoying but still unnecessary in an otherwise tranquil jungle setting.
The cave was big, deep and well lit. It was much larger than any of the other caves in height and width. We spent the better part of an hour walking along the boardwalk before getting to the depths of Paradise Cave. It was a beautiful, open collesium filled with huge, gaping rooms, 300 feet high, separated only by massive rock walls of dropping cave sediment. We were fairly alone in these arenas that could’ve housed an entire high school football stadium.
As wonderful as the caves were that we enjoyed in Phong Nha, the cave systems continued but at a price we were neither willing nor able to pay. The deeper you went, the higher the cost. You could pay $3,000 (Yes, US dollars) per person to see the newly discovered Son Doong Cave. It is supposedly one of the biggest in the world. I’m sure the three or four caves continuing beyond the end of Paradise Cave are lovely but for us, for now, the last four caves we’ve visited have been a great experience. Seriously though, there’s one company that owns the access rights to some of the biggest caves in Vietnam and possibly the world. Monopoly is a game to remind us that monopolies (and the game) ruin friendships, ruin countries and are an absolute pain in the ass the average consumer. Fuck you, Oxalis. The caves belong to the people, you greedy dickheads.
***** He’s not bitter or anything. – McKayla (smiley, winky face) *****
Anyhow, we made our way to the botanical gardens for lunch. The garden was another stop on the loop. Neither of us was up for the tour but it seemed like a great place for lunch. We parked our moto, found a table and quickly realized we weren’t the only ones looking for a meal. About 2 minutes after sitting down, we noticed some thumping on the roof of the awning above us. Soon, a pair of monkeys were each tearing apart packaged noodles to get at the salty flavoring packets. Within two minutes of our food being set in front of us on the table, the braver of the two came around us and quickly jumped on our table. When I started yelling at him and pounding a soy sauce bottle on the metal table but found that it only made him look at me like, “hey man, I thought we were going to share. Chill out!”
Our noise brought on the server who clearly was more intimidating and he sent the monkey running up the rafter, shitting as he went (I’m assuming out of spite, not fear). It was only another 5 minutes before we saw an upside down head peering at us sneakily from the awning. Again, the server was on him. All he had to do was give that monkey a look and we heard him run across the plastic awning overhead and jump into the nearby tree. The server gave a shy apology with a smile and went back to the kitchen. Clearly these two had a relationship.