Dark Cave, Phong Nha – What makes it so exhilarating?

Dark Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

What makes Dark Cave, Phong Nha so exhilarating?

Dark Cave is whole different creature from your average tourist cave experience and we couldn’t wait to try it out!

We thought the weather was going to spoil our fun again this time round. We woke up to a wet and cold day, doubting our decision but opted to stick it out and stoked we did!

Sure, Paradise Cave has the beauty, the awe-inspiring landscape and easy access but nothing screams ‘awesome’ like flying through the air, taking a dip and hitting Dark Cave barefoot!

Photos, what photos?

Okay. This is where I admit that I don’t have any photos from my camera because it’s in my phone and there was NO way I was taking that out in the wet and mud.

Luckily, we had our trusty Olympus Tough with us which we used for shooting our vlog and I’ll try and snaffle some footage from that.

Apologies for the inconvenience, and we appreciate your patience during this blog.

Dark Cave as part of the 'Tour of the Caves' experience

Phong Nha sports three massive cave systems;

Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave and Dark Cave.

They are open to the public and tourists on pretty much any given day, weather permitting of course.

Now these three have a famous big brother called Song Nha. If that rings a bell it will because you might know as the second largest cave in the world.

We did consider a guided tour of Song Nha, but it’s harder and waaaay more expensive to book, though not entirely impossible either.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Our visit to Paradise Cave, the other half of our Tours of the Cave experience was like.

Instead, we opted for a tour that allowed us to visit two of the three caves of our choosing. Few tour operators are that flexible, so check tour details and itineraries before you lock it in.

While Paradise Cave was a delightful bonus, Dark Cave was the real reason we came to Dong Hoi.  What makes it special?

It offers a very different and unique visiting experience. One where you can get down and dirty as well as clean and fresh, all while having the time of your life.

What is the best way to get to Dark Cave?

Almost everything you read will tell you to stay in Phong Nha because it’s closest to the caves, but we beg to differ.

Dong Hoi isn’t that much further out and most tours are happy to pick you up from your hotel in Dong Hoi, as was the case with Tour to the Caves.

You don’t have to be in Phong Nha or Dong Hoi as there are a lot of tours available from Hanoi too.

If you prefer to do the caves on your own then a taxi (from Phong Nha or Dong Hoi) or private transfer (from anywhere) is your best option. Private transfer possibly being the cheaper of the two options. Most hotels and/or hostels can hook you up with private transfers too.

What to expect from your visit to Dark Cave

After our visit to Paradise Cave, we sat down to a share lunch. On offer was a great selection of goodies that was both filling but not stodgy or heavy, making it perfect for our next activity.

 

Does anyone not like Dark Cave?

Unlike Paradise Cave, Dark Cave is not for everyone.

If you’re not great with heights, water or the dark, then Dark Cave will definitely not be your thing.

In saying that though, if you’re on the fence and feeling brave, then it’s tame enough to still be a great experience. So, why not give it a go?!

 

Is Dark Cave affected by weather?

It definitely is affected by weather and not just during the wet season.

It’s surrounded by water, so it doesn’t take much for it to flood.

Thankfully local operators have a finger on the pulse. If  at any time it looks like the caves may flood, then the operator won’t hesitate to cancel tours and close the caves immediately.

Again, check with your tour operator or hotel/hostel before you set out.

 

What’s best, a guided tour or a DIY tour?

We did Dark Cave as part of the ‘Tour of the Caves’ two cave tour and it worked out perfect for us because it included everything.  Even a hot lunch.

You can go to Dark Cave without having to be part of a tour. We saw a few people do this cave only as it is the most adventurous. It’s also a good option if you’re short on time.

 

How long does a visit to Dark Cave take?

The two cave tour was a full day option with pick up at 8AM, starting at Paradise Cave, followed by a lunch break at 12PM, then Dark Cave before being dropped back off at 5PM.

The Dark Cave experience took about an hour, maybe a little more.  This cave is tiny in comparison to Paradise Cave so you won’t need nearly as much time here.

 

Dark Cave entrance fee

The two cave tour with Tours to the Cave cost us VND 1,350,000 (~USD20.00 / ~AUD27.00).

Tickets are available at the entry gate or if you are travelling with a tour group, then just stick with your guide.  They’ve got you covered.

 

What to take with you

As you can tell, it’s not your average cave experience so we thought we give you a quick list of what to take with you.

Included in the activity is;

  • Insurance (for the caving and zip lining only)
  • Safety equipment (harness, hard hat, headlight, life vest)

Things to take with you that are not included in the activity ;

  • A small towel that you don’t mind throwing away after as the mud is impossible to get out (Our tour had towels available as well but don’t bank on that happening with them all )
  • Bathers (swimsuit, togs, cozzie)
  • Spare set of clothes
  • Floating devices for your cameras/gear that you’re planning on taking with you (it’s compulsory). If you don’t have any you can buy them before you gear up.

The Dark Cave Experience

Getting geared up for the adventure!

The first order of business was signing and paying for additional insurance. Our hosts were giving us (and them), a bit more piece of mind, considering we were about to embark on an adventure sport.

The second order of business was making sure no one took their phone and we all had floating devices on all our cameras. 

We’re guessing a few peeps before us lost their gear so now it’s compulsory to have floating devices for your gear. Not a bad thing really.

If you don’t have any, don’t stress, they do offer some simple solutions to buy right next to where you sign your insurance form. We had to buy one for the Canon and it only cost VND10,000 (~USD0.45 /~AUD0.60). Best part is we’ve added it to the kit for future use. Cue big grins!

 

Flying across the river

We were pondering our sanity, standing in line, in our bathers, on a wet chilly day waiting to have a harness fitted. The idea of zip lining in nothing but a bikini on a rainy day seemed ridiculous, lol, but exciting too.

The safety equipment included a harness and proper hard hat with headlight, which left me wondering what the light might be for.

I was in for one heck of a surprise! We were also given a life vest each and it wasn’t until we slid them on that we realized they were satch’ed and cold!

All part of the experience, right?

The zip line from the tower across the river towards the mouth of Dark Cave was short, cold but exhilarating! The stop at the was a whole different story but i was sporting the biggest grin ever!

It wasn’t the best part of the adventure either.

 

Didn’t dodge the cold river

This was the teeth-chattering part of the fun. We had to swim 10 meters from the end of the zip line to the mouth of the cave and it was COLD!

On a hot day it would be heavenly but when it’s already wet and chilly, all you can do is swim faster and that was exactly what everyone did!

 

We’re going dark!

The adventure continued with a walk into the cave, wading through thigh deep water to a beach well into the dark cavern.

By this time, it was clear what the headlight was for, LOL!  It was so dark inside that even the light from 12 other people wasn’t enough to light the whole space around us!

On the beach toke off the life jackets and waded through more water to another beach. This one had a narrow pathway leading into a dark abyss.

 

Getting down and dirty

The narrow pathway led us up and down a slippery passage until we hit a large pool of red, viscous liquid that looked very sus.

We were the last of the group to get in and all we could hear were nervous giggles and reluctant chatter, wondering what was waiting for us.

Turned out it was a mud bath!! Or rather mud pool?

 

Pick a spot, any spot

Everyone picked a spot and gingerly lowered into the mud to cover most of their bodies, some even daring to coat their faces.

We were warned not to get the muck in our eyes at any cost as it would be hard to wash out given that we had nothing but more mud around us.

Oh man! The texture under my feet was insane!

It felt like what I imagine guts feel like squishing between your toes and slippery, far out it was so slippery!!

At first it was horrible but the longer we stayed the better it got. The muck warmed up the slightest bit and by then everyone was having a blast.

 

Lights out…wait, what?!

Our guide checked to make sure we were all comfortable with the dark before telling us to turn off our lights.

Fourteen people gasped in awe, surrounded by an utter black space and not a peep from anything anywhere.  It was the eeriest experience. 

That was until the first person fell victim to the slippery surface under foot and then a few more went down.

We turned the lights on after that and headed back to clean water to rinse the mud off and continue the adventure!

 

Heading back out into the world

When we reached the first body of water, we all rinsed off the excess mud and headed back towards the mouth of the cave.

Again, we were the last four of the group and the tour guide told us to hang back a bit, watching the others go, then asking us to turn our lights off.

This time we had to navigate the waters without light and it was hilarious!

We had to try and stick to single file but we couldn’t do it to save ourselves. We were all too busy laughing and falling over.

 

Row your boat

When we came out of the cave, we waved goodbye to the hard hats and hit the paddles and two-man canoes. It was time to head back to base and have some more fun.

It’s a short seven or so minute row and when we got back to base there were a few fun water activities to do.

I opted for a shower and my clothes as I was pretty cold but Leon stayed behind and enjoyed a few more zip lines and laughs with the others.

Leon and Tash Vlog

An epic day of adventure at Dark Cave Phong Nha

Would we recommend Dark Cave?

Absolutely! Even on a cold, wet day we had the time of our lives and stoked we finally got to do Dark Cave.

If you’re travelling on a tight itinerary and looking for one fun thing to do in Dong Hoi, then we highly recommend a visit to Dark Cave!

Hope you guys enjoyed our visit and the info was of use but if you’re looking for more, then hit us up in the comments.

And if this is your first visit to our site, welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

 

Dark Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

Paradise Cave Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

Seen one cave, seen ‘em all? Not the case at Paradise Cave, Phuong Nha Ke Bang National Park

During our 2016 visit to Dong Hoi, we attempted to visit Dark Cave in the Phuong Nha Ke Bang National Park.

It wasn’t to be as bad weather flooded the cave, foiling both our plans and a second shot at it since our schedule was pretty tight at the time. But not this time!

For this trip we planned things a little differently.

One, we made sure we had amazing accommodation at Au Lac Bar and Hostel. A nice, cozy spot to stay for a few extra days in case the weather got nasty. Two, we had a backup plan this time.

We were ready to get our cave on, no matter what!

What attracted us to Paradise Cave?

Phong Nha is well known for its extraordinary cave systems. Heck, it sports the world’s second largest cave, Song Nha.

But we weren’t interested in big brother. We wanted to see two of the smaller systems, famous in their own right, called Paradise and Dark Caves.

Lucky for us, Au Lac Bar and Hostel had connections to a variety of tours to the cave and we picked one by Tour to the Caves. Best part was we could choose which of the three caves we wanted to do! This was perfect because not all tours offer this option and we specifically wanted to see Paradise and Dark caves.

In this blog we’ll tell you all about Paradise Cave and then more on Dark Cave in a different blog as they were two very differed experiences.

The best way to get to Paradise Cave

Paradise Cave Vietnam Phong Nha National Park cave tour things to do in vietnam

Almost everything you read will tell you to stay in Phong Nha because it’s closest to the caves, but we beg to differ.

Dong Hoi isn’t that much further out and most tours are happy to pick you up from your hotel in Dong Hoi, as was the case with Tour to the Caves.

If you prefer to do the caves on your own then a taxi or private transfer is your best option. Private transfer possibly being the cheaper of the two options. Most hotels and/or hostels can hook you up with private transfers.

The beauty of Paradise Cave

We opted to do this one first and keep the fun and excitement of Dark Cave for last (wink-wink).

On arrival we made our way to a waiting electric buggy that took us up to the stairs leading to Paradise cave. It’s an approximate 1.2 kilometers ride and you can walk it using the covered walk way provided.

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

Good thing is there are plenty of rest stops for catching your breath.

Before entering Paradise Cave

At the entrance to the cave is a visitor’s area with seating, vending machines and an attendee desk.

This is a great spot to grab a seat, catch your breath and revel in the breathtaking jungle covered karts surroundings.

There are boards with basic information on the discovery of Paradise Cave, its layout and basic safety instructions to be aware of.

You can buy water or other cold beverages from the vending machines, but we opted to take our own which you can do too.

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

A fun experience for all.

Paradise Cave is a relaxing and fun experience that anyone can enjoy.

The staircase from the mouth of the cave down to the viewing platforms and walk ways might look intimidating but it’s not that bad.

The walk ways are relatively well lit.  Enough to make your way around comfortably but doesn’t detract from the stunning views.

The experience will either leave your jaw dragging behind you or leave a massive smile on your dial.

Is Paradise Cave affected by weather?

It sure is. We weren’t sure whether we were actually going to make it to the caves due to rain the previous two days.

Fortunately, the rain wasn’t heavy enough to affect the cave for our visit but it can and does flood during the wet season, which may affect your visit.

The tourism industry in Dong Hoi is pretty onto too, especially during the wet season!  This means all you have to do is ask your hotel on the status of the caves. We got unprompted updates each morning at breakfast from our hostel hosts.

Another great testament to the amazing customer service you can expect in Dong Hoi.

What’s best, a guided tour or a DIY tour?

It’s a cave, so you have the option of going with a tour or you can just do it on your own.

Pros and cons of a tour depends on your travel needs.  Usually we avoid them but this time round we decided a tour was better and we weren’t disappointed.

We learned things about the area and the discovery of the cave systems in it from a local that we wouldn’t have found by ourselves.

Also, our tour guide, was amazing to interact with. He was not only local but passionate about sharing his knowledge of his home and had some really interesting tidbits to share with us.

Tour to the Caves were great at making sure their guests got the most out of their experience and we thoroughly enjoyed our company!

How long does a visit to Paradise Cave take?

One kilometer doesn’t sound like much but we loved every second of it and almost ran out of time to see the whole thing.

It took us two hours to do Paradise cave but mostly because I was running around taking a million photos and we were shooting for our vlog too.

On your own, you could probably smash it out in 45 minutes to an hour.  Maybe less if you’re just there for a quick look and it would still be worth the visit.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Paradise Cave was the first half of our Tours of the Cave experience and we loved every minute of it!

What to expect of your visit to Paradise Cave

Discovery of Paradise Cave

In 2005 by a local wandering the mountains looking for a specific kind of wood found an entrance to what he thought was a small cave.

Not wanting to get lost, he went home and reported the find. This resulted in the government getting a team together to go in and explore the area to see what turned up.

It turned out to be so much more than they expected!

Once the geologists finished digging around and exploring the cavernous space, they found it was over 30 kilometers in length. Think about that for a second…

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

What you can see of it today

The first one kilometer of the cave is open to visitors and is accessible by existing walkways.  The widest section in this part of the cave is about 170 meters across and the deepest spot takes you down 150 meters.

There are many platforms connected by a wide walk way, catering to large crowds making it easy to get around.  You get plenty of opportunities to gawk in awe at the different formations and changing sub terrain landscapes.

The fact that it has sat dormant for so long is extraordinary but then, Vietnam is discovering a lot about herself in a short space of time and we love exploring her!

Paradise Cave entrance fee

Our day tour with Tours to the Cave cost us VND1,350,000 (~USD59.00 / ~AUD82.00) per person, which included entry to both Paradise and Dark Caves.  Lunch was also included in this price.

If you prefer to visit Paradise cave on your own, then entry is VND250,000 (~USD11.00 / ~AUD15.00) and includes the electric buggy ride.

Tickets are available at a stand by the entry gate or if you are travelling with a tour group, then stick with your guide, they’ve got you covered.

One thing that sold us on the tour was the included lunch. There are some options to grab something to eat at the caves but it won’t be cheap and might not be what you feel like.

Our lunch consisted of a share table of different dishes including chicken, pork, an array of veggie and rice dishes. There was plenty to go around and it was nice and filling but not too heavy.

Leon and Tash Blog

You don't need to stay in Phong Nha to see the caves and we tell you why!

Would we recommend Paradise Cave?

We enjoyed our visit to Paradise Cave and if caves are your thing, then Paradise Cave is definitely worth adding to the itinerary.

Note: We’re not able to compare it to Phong Nha cave as we opted not do that one. Two of our tour companions went and they were beaming when they joined us, saying it was well worth the visit too.

Dark Cave is a very different experience all together and might not be everyone’s cup of tea but we’ll tell you more about why in our next blog.

If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing experience with a bit of action to get the heart pumping then we highly recommend a visit to Paradise Cave.

And if this is your first visit to our site, welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Paradise Cave Phong Nha national park, things to do in Vietnam, cave tours, dong hoi

Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue is a Vietnam must see

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in hue, Thien Mu Pagoda, vietnam history, buddha, temple, the burning monk, austin, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

Thien Mu Pagoda, a rich piece of Hue history

The Thien Mu Pagoda is a local superstar in Hue. Every tour agency, local tour and Hue local will tell you it’s a must see.

It has a breathtaking location on the bank of the Perfume River and linked to a profound moment in history.

We weren’t going for the temples or tours or because of what we heard. Leon caught wind of a little blue Austin that had him in a frenzy. We are both automotive enthusiasts so it didn’t surprise me that he wanted to go and look at a car.

It wasn’t until we were there filming that he revealed the significance of THIS particular car.

It still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

How we found out about Thien Mu Pagoda

We missed visiting this beauty on our first visit to Hue, but that meant we had a bit more time to find out more about it for our second visit.  We already knew it had a great historic presence in Hue and sits in a spectacular location. What we didn’t know was just how special this place really is thanks for one significant event in world history.

Where in Hue is the Thien Mu Pagoda

The Pagoda sits on the across the Perfume River from the city center and a couple of kilometers down from the Hue Imperial Palace.

How to get there

A popular choice is by taxi or GRAB and it won’t cost much. 

Something that is really fun and a more traditional method of transport is trying  one of the many local cyclos.

If you’re thinking of doing the Imperial Palace and Thien Mu Pagoda on the same day, then definitely negotiating a cheaper day rate with those guys. There is plenty of competition around and they tend to be negotiable.

Not keen to go out there by yourself? It’s not unusual as many travelers prefer either the company of others or enjoy a guided tour that provide more info.

There are loads of options to choose from like online agencies (check reviews before booking!) or you can simply walk down Chu Van Anh and walk into any of the tour operators office off the street.

Leon and Tash Blog

Looking for a tour option that is outside the box and will have you grinning from ear to ear? Then let us introduce you to Vespa Safari Hue! The gold standard of local Hue tours.

Renting a bicycle is another excellent way to explore Hue and her attractions. The Thien Mu Pagoda is one of many within a pleasant scenic ride from the city.

We preferred taking our two Honda Waves out there and parked them on the side of the road. There is a paid parking area next to the pagoda for VND5,000 (~USD0.21 / ~AUD0.30) if you prefer that option.

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in hue, Thien Mu Pagoda, vietnam history, buddha, temple, the burning monk, austin, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

Things to know before you head into the Thien Mu Pagoda

General Entry

Hours: 8AM – 5PM, Monday to Sunday.

Entry fee: No entry fee, it is free.

Dress code: No naked shoulders or knees for men or women. Inappropriately dressed visitors may not be able to enter.

Apart from being an historic place of interest, it’s also an active temple. Please be respectful.

The pagoda is also an outdoor attraction with limited cover. We suggest checking the weather forecast before you head on out to it.

Who would enjoy it?

It is a family friendly destination but not sure how much entertainment kiddos will get from it.

The Thien Mu Pagoda is perfect for history lovers.

We would suggest finding a guide who can tell you more about the history of the place. Learning about it would certainly make it a more enjoyable visit.

We opted to do it by ourselves armed with info we found online and that was fine too. We managed to learn quite a bit about it that way actually. We’ve also read some hilarious anecdotes relating to the Thien Mu Pagoda in the process.

How long does a visit take?

Our visit lasted about two and half hours. It gave us plenty of time to explore, take photos and get some footage for a vlog too.

You can easily combine a visit here with another spot in the area. The Imperial Palace or perhaps the Temple of Literature come to mind and both are interesting.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Follow us around the tranquil and surprising complex of the Thien Mu Pagoda

An famous historic event with ties to Thien Mu Pagoda

As I mentioned before, we were there for a little blue Austin. When Leon asked me if I recognized the car, I was a little confused. Then he told me to look at the picture on the back wall. 

That’s when it hit me!

Isn’t that the Rage Against the Machine album cover?

The picture I’m talking about is also called, “The Burning Monk” by Malcolm Browne. Feel free to Google it, but we warn you, it is graphic so please be careful.

It’s a harrowing story and well worth the read. We wrongly assumed it had to do with the Vietnam/American war and we couldn’t have been more wrong. The plight of this story had its own enormous significance. It resulted in a toppled government and made the whole world paying attention in united horror.

Total goosebumps

The monk in the picture, Thích Quang Duc was from Hue. The little blue Austin we’re talking about is the car he used to drive from Hue to Saigon in June 1963.

To stand there and see it in person was an experience I find hard to describe. The fact that someone thought to save the car and bring it back to Hue is mind blowing.

Seeing the photo broke my heart. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it but I now knew the true meaning behind the act. Seeing the Austin didn’t just make it a photo anymore, it made it so real!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what seeing something from that picture could do?

What is the rest of Thien Mu like?

The Austin isn’t the only attraction. In fact, most people don’t even know about the Austin and its significance until they get there.

Phuoc Duyen Tower

Upon entering the pagoda, the The Phuoc Duyen tower greets you with all it’s glory. It’s an octagonal shaped, seven storey beauty. From what we’ve read, seven is a sacred number in Vietnam. Even the number of stairs can on each storey is divisible by seven.

In the same area is a six-sided pagoda, home to the Dai Hong Bell. Built in roughly 1710, this ~2,000 kg, this behemoth is audible from 10 kilometers away.

On the other side of Phuoc Duyen tower is a building that houses a stela that dates back as far as 1715.

Pagoda Grounds

Through the main gate is the Dai Hung Temple. This beautiful building is an active temple and loved by locals.

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in hue, Thien Mu Pagoda, vietnam history, buddha, temple, the burning monk, austin, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

Towards the rear there are a number of other temples and shrines. Each one has its own unique origin and legend around it. We’ve read so many different things that it would be good to have a guide to know which ones are true.

Just walking around the grounds leaves you with this calm and peaceful feeling.

Mind you we did get there right on open time and there weren’t many people there yet. Our advice is to get there just before it opens to enjoy as much of it in peace as you can.

If you get a chance, head on over to the Old Gate that used to the part of the original perimeter for the temple grounds.  It has an fantastic few across the Perfume River.

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in hue, Thien Mu Pagoda, vietnam history, buddha, temple, the burning monk, austin, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

What other things are there to do in Hue?

Hue has a lot on offer and it’s legit one of our favorite cities to visit in Vietnam!

It’s also home of some of Vietnam’s most famous dishes like Bun Bo Hue and banh beo.  There is also no shortage of eateries around. All you have to do is head to the tourist area  (Chu Van Anh street, Le Loi street, Doi Cung street and Nguyen Thai Hoc street)

Leon and Tash Blog

Experience the wonder of Hue from the historic Hue Imperial Citadel

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Five Free Things to do in Da Nang

Five free things to do in Da Nang, Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in da nang, dragon bridge, walking tour, linh ung pagoda, my khe beach, vietnam history, fresco village, temple, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

Whether your passing through or staying for a while, there is always something going on in this epic city. We’re here to tell you about five free things to do in Da Nang.

No great introduction to any new destination has to start with a hefty price tag and Da Nang is no exception. In fact, Da Nang has the unique advantage of offering both beach and city activities.  That alone, makes it the perfect all-round vacation destination.

Five free things to do in Da Nang

Free Thing #1 – DA NANG FREE WALKING TOUR

Free walking tours are the best way to get a genuine introduction to this amazing city.

The guides are local university students who are are passionate about their city.  It’s also a chance for them to meet new people from all over and to practice their English.

For visitors, this is a chance to meet someone who can tell you more about the local food, entertainment and living side of Da Nang.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Exploring Da Nang with an amazing free walking tour

The tour lasts about 2 hours and includes five planned stops. Between those, you get a ton of information on where to explore further on your own. It’s super easy to book too, just head to their Da Nang Free Walking Tour website.

Now, we listed this as a free thing to do in Da Nang as you don’t have to pay for the tour. There is an opportunity to give you guide a tip at the end IF you want to. More on that in the link below.

Leon and Tash Blog

Come with us as we explore our first Vietnam destination, Da Nang with an amazing free walking tour

Travel Tip!: Test your haggling skills at Han Market while you have an interpreter there with you. That way you can communicate with the seller and you can come back with a bit more confidence later to buy more.

Free Thing #2 – DA NANG BRIDGES

It’s true! Da Nang, is also known as the city of bridges and for good reason. It has 7 bridges and three of them are super stars with their own history. They are Han Bridge, Dragon Bridge and Than Thie Ly Bridge.

The most recognizable of the three is the famous Dragon Bridge. This one comes alive every Saturday and Sunday night at 9PM. Make sure to check it out as not only is watching the bridge fun, but watching the crowd is fascinating too.

Leon and Tash Vlog

A real dragon that spits real fire! For real!!

Travel Tip!: Not fond of crowds? Then head down Tran Hung Dao street towards the Than Thie Ly bridge where you’ll find the street side vendors. They’ll prepare you a fresh coconut or sugar juice of your choice on request. All you have to do is grab a seat at one of their adorable tiny chairs and tables with the perfect view of the action. A fresh coconut should set you back about VND35,000 (~USD1.50 / ~AUD2.10) and the seat if free.

Five free things to do in Da Nang, Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in da nang, dragon bridge, walking tour, linh ung pagoda, my khe beach, vietnam history, fresco village, temple, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

Free Thing # 3 – DA NANG FRESCO VILLAGE

This was one of the neatest things we found in Da Nang and believe is part of a worldwide movement.

Local residents were looking for a way to get tourists and locals to interact more with each other. The idea of a fresco village came about and they set out inviting local artists to be part of the initiative.

Their aim was to transform their labyrinth of narrow alleys and high walls into an outdoor gallery where artists could show their talents and visitors could enjoy the artwork for free.  You just have to find the narrow entrance to let the magic begin.

Leon and Tash Blog

When street meets art gallery and you can experience it for free!

You can explore this spot in your own time, admiring the artworks and take as many pictures as you like. Each painting tells its own story and there are so many, you wouldn’t know what to look at first.

The Da Nang Fresco Village isn’t far from the city side of Dragon Bridge and absolutely worth the visit.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Experience a personalized tour of the Da Nang Fresco Village

Travel Tip!: There is a small ‘outdoor food courtyard’ where you can buy a traditional Vietnamese herbal drink. There are other refreshments and light street food available too. It’s not expensive and the money goes back into the project for maintenance and expansion.

Free Thing #4 – MY KHE BEACH

One of Da Nang’s stand out features is without a doubt its spectacular beach called My Khe, (pronounced Mi KE beach).

One of the best things to do on it is to simply walk along it, no matter the time of day. From dawn till dusk it’s everyone from tourists to locals’ favorite playground. It’s a great place to meet locals to, especially in the mornings.

Along Vo Nguyen Giap road is plenty to do, eat and drink too but it will cost you. Not much, just not free.

Travel Tip!: Find a cheap beach cabana for the day. If you want to experience the most epic chill beach day of your life, then hire a lounger under a beach hut/cabana. It will cost you around VND40,000 (~USD1.70 / ~AUD2.40) but shop around, there are a few options. This way you get a comfy spot for the day and you don’t have to worry about getting fried. Also, where there’s a cabana, there’s usually refreshments too and loads of street food vendors that wander along the beach. Perfect, huh?

Five free things to do in Da Nang, Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in da nang, dragon bridge, walking tour, linh ung pagoda, my khe beach, vietnam history, fresco village, temple, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

Free Thing #5 – LINH UNG PAGODA (Son Tra)

If you’re sitting on your beach lounger chilling on My Khe beach then you will notice a gigantic white figure standing at the base of the Son Tra Peninsula. What is it you ask?

She is the famous Lady Buddha and she is an epic 72 meters tall. The Lady of Mercy isn’t the only amazing thing about this spot either. It’s perfect spot for sunrises and sunsets, not to mention great photos.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Say hello to the magnificent 70 meter high guardian of My Khe beach

The complex sits on 20 hectares so there is a lot of room. It is super popular with tourist crowds ! If you want the place almost to yourself, then you need to get in and out, well before 8AM or after 5PM-ish.

Leon and Tash Blog

Come meet the mysterious tall lady of Son Tra in Da Nang

There is a small catch with this one. The complex is free to enter but you will need to get there which will either be by GRAB, taxi or a rental bike.

Neither of these options are expensive as it is a short ride out there and well worth a visit! If you do rent a bike/scooter than Son Tra Peninsula is another awesome free thing to go and check out!

Five free things to do in Da Nang, Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in da nang, dragon bridge, walking tour, linh ung pagoda, my khe beach, vietnam history, fresco village, temple, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Crazy House Da Lat (Hang Nga Guesthouse)

Things to do in Vietnam, Crazy House Da Lat, Hang Nga Guesthouse, things to do in da lat, vietnam history, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam, Da lat, dalat

Do one crazy house thing in Da Lat!

Crazy House! You might be wondering what would inspire a visit to this crazy looking place.

First impressions of Crazy House will leave you confused, asking what on earth you’re looking at but trust us when we say, there is reason for the madness.

This labyrinth of narrow bridges crawling over a mish-mash of unique structures, is a well-known landmark. Not only in Da Lat but Vietnam as well.

It features in almost every travel guidebook list of ‘bizarre things’ or ‘crazy things’ to do in Da Lat.

Not to mention countless blog posts, Facebook posts and even Instagram and Pinterest.

So, it’s not hard to find at all.

Where is Crazy House?

It’s a quick and cheap taxi or GRAB ride from the city center.

Or if you are feeling energetic, it’s a good ten to fifteen-minute walk.

For those travelling by scooter or motorbike, there is parking available at a cost of VND 5,000 (~USD 0.20 / ~AUD 0.30) per bike for the day.

Roll up and park on the left of the drive and make sure you tuck in nice and tight. The attendant on hand will show you the best place to park on busy days.

The staff offered to put our our full faced helmets in the ticket office, which we did reluctantly.  Not only would they be a pain to replace but they had our Bluetooth sets on them too, hence us being hesitant about it.

In the end it was the best decision. Walking around with them would have been a mare on the narrow stairs alone. Not to mention trying to wade through the throngs of people with them.

Not sure where to start looking for bus tickets, time tables and the like?

No problem, we've got you covered. Hit search to find  your travel solutions

Affiliate disclosure: The information in this posts contains affiliate links for our travel partnerships.  You don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use them but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

What makes Crazy House so popular?

It is actually an active guesthouse, called Hang Nga Guesthouse . You can book to stay the night in one of many available rooms. It’s been voted one of the craziest places to stay in the world.

Affiliate disclosure: The information above contains an affiliate link for our accommodation partner, Hotels Combined. We trust and used them for most of our trip and we are happy to recommend their services (especially since they were so easy to use and found us really good choices too.) Now, you don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use these links but if you do use them, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

You’ll have to share your accommodation with curious visitors all day long, lol! So, make sure you’re okay with that first.

The guesthouse started as one structure. Designed and built by architect Dang Viet Nga.

It was a personal project and the idea was to make it look like a banyan tree. Incorporating the elements of nature, inspired by the beautiful surroundings of Da Lat.  It also incorporated elements from her favorite architect, Antony Guidi.

The original building has four rooms. Each one with its own nature inspired themed.

Since opening in 1990, Hang Nga Guesthouse has swelled into three large structures.

They are all connected by a network of narrow stairs dancing in and around the buildings in a crazy jig.

Hang Nga continues to grow, inspired by artist submissions as well as local craftsmen, earning it the name, Crazy House.

Leon and Tash Blog

Things to do in Da Lat

What is there to see at Crazy House?

Simple. The whole place!

Crawling all over, in and through this beautiful maze is something else!

So many themes and styles in one place that it doesn’t seem like it could work anywhere but Vietnam.  It truly is unique.

One minute you’re surrounded by soft, rounded angles. The next you’re traversing super narrow stairs with little or no railing.  It really is a crazy experience.

We’ve never seen anything like it and probably never will again.

There is plenty of new construction too. It left us curious about what the new will grow into and look like when it’s finished.

One of our favorite things was the original reception area.  It has been beautifully preserved and dedicated to someone special.

We later learned the man in the photos was Nga’s father, Truong Chinh, who was the second president of Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh.

Things to do in Vietnam, Crazy House Da Lat, Hang Nga Guesthouse, things to do in da lat, vietnam history, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam, Da lat, dalat

Guided tour or DIY?

There is no tour here. Which we thought would have been very handy.

There is plenty of information on Crazy House all over the place, but none of it is in English.

We did a fair bit of reading up after our visit as we had a lot of questions. We suggest you do a bit of reading before you head out as it might make a bit more sense.

Who would enjoy coming to Crazy House?

It’s a bit of fun and almost like a jungle gym for adults. But we would say mostly adults only. And for those who love architecture, this is a feast on the senses!

One thing to note. We didn’t see any small children here and that wasn’t a bad thing. There were plenty of things around that left us questioning the safety aspect of a lot of them.

If you want to take kids with you, we recommend doing some reaching first. Find out from those who have been with kids and get their advice. We don’t have them so we can’t give you any.

Entry fee

The entry fee for Crazy House costs VND 50,000 (~USD 2.15 / ~AUD 3.00) per person (haven’t seen a separate price for children listed anywhere). And it’s open 7 days a week between 8:30 AM and 7 PM, including holidays.

What did we think of the experience?

This was a crazy experience!

Not only was the whole place crazy, but the crowd was crazy too so, it pays to bring your patience.

And a camera! Taking photos here is unreal. You never know if you’re capturing it in a way that will make sense when you show it to someone who hasn’t been there, lol!

It certainly was one of the craziest, quirkiest and bizarre things we’ve done to date!

We had a great time at Crazy House and highly recommend a visit if you are in Da Lat.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Is this the craziest house in southeast Asia?!!

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Looking for your perfect Da Lat accommodation?

From 2 star to rock star! Da Lat can accommodate any need for any traveler. Find yours here!

Affiliate disclosure: The information above contains an affiliate link for our accommodation partner, Hotels Combined. We trust and used them for most of our trip and we are happy to recommend their services (especially since they were so easy to use and found us really good choices too.) Now, you don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use these links but if you do use them, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

Elephant Waterfall Da Lat

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in Da Lat, Elephant Waterfall, vietnam history, Vietnam landscape, jungle, vietnam day trip, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam, things to do in da lat, da lat tourist spot, da lat places to visit

Why Elephant Waterfall should be on your Da Lat to-do-list!

Among the many things to see and do in Da Lat is Elephant Waterfall.

It’s one of three waterfalls in the area, the other two being Datanla and Prenn waterfalls.

According to our sources, if we were to choose only one of the three, we should make it Elephant waterfall and here’s why.

Spectacular views along the route, great coffee (if you opt to stop) and then the waterfall at the end of it.

Leon and Tash Blog

Me Linh Coffee Garden - coffee with the best view in Da Lat!

How we discovered Elephant Waterfall

Before our last visit to Da Lat, we came across the name on Insta and in some research we did on Da Lat.

It looked like a great spot to kill an hour or so and we decided to add it to our to-do-list.

When we checked into Maxim Hotel, our friend Ha also recommended we visit the waterfall. His recommendations are usually on point and if he says they are well worth the visit, then we go visit.

Also, a local recommendation is usually a good endorsement.  That’s how we know we’re onto a good thing.

Unfortunately, on that visit the weather wasn’t on our side. We ended up flagging the activity, much to our disappointment but on this visit though we hit gold!

Not only did we wake up to a beautiful sunny day but it rained the day before. This meant we were in for an epic waterfall show.

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in Da Lat, Elephant Waterfall, vietnam history, Vietnam landscape, jungle, vietnam day trip, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam, things to do in da lat, da lat tourist spot, da lat places to visit

Where is Elephant Waterfall?

Approximately 25km from Da Lat is Cam Ly river and with it, Elephant Waterfall.

There are small tours that go out there but you can do it yourself for cheaper by taking a GRAB or renting a scooter.

The fastest way to get there is to find Hoang Van Thu street first. Follow that until it turns into Cam Ly and keep going until you hit a fork in the road. Follow the road to the left where it becomes DT725 and keep following that until you see Mê Linh Coffee Garden.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Civet Coffee with a view only Da Lat can deliver!

If you don’t want a coffee then keep going for another 10 – 15 minutes until you see a sign that points to a road on your right. The entrance is about 500 meters down the road on the left.

Things to know when visiting Elephant Waterfall

There are no guides or boards to tell you where to go. Neither is it hard to figure out. You just follow the only pathway down towards the waterfall.

The pathway is a makeshift of locally engineered steel bridges and steps carved out of the rock. It’s a fun walk but super slippery and pretty rough.

After rainy days the waterfall bathes the area in a beautiful mist that soaks everything!  On a hot day it’s heavenly but it does make the pathway hard to traverse.

Our advice. Take good shoes with good grip!

This is a hands-on activity. So, make sure to wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty as there is no escaping it.

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in Da Lat, Elephant Waterfall, vietnam history, Vietnam landscape, jungle, vietnam day trip, vietnam tourist attraction, Vietnam travel, vietnam tourist spots, vietnam destinations, where to go in vietnam, best places to visit in vietnam, things to do in da lat, da lat tourist spot, da lat places to visit

Half way down the pathway there is the big waterfall and a few smaller ones spewing off the sides. The pathway forks, left taking you up close and personal with the big fall.  There you’ll find a steel platform looking out over the big waterfall. To the left of the platform is the way to the cave but we didn’t go in there.  We didn’t have our waterproof gear with us and didn’t want to damage our camera gear.

Coming back to the fork, head downwards towards the foot of the big fall where there are some smaller falls.

There are plenty of great photo spots and it’s not hard to kill an hour or so there. You can even pack a picnic to enjoy in a shady spot if you want.

Cost

Elephant Waterfall is a nice cheap outing.

Parking the bikes cost us VND 5,000 (~USD 0.20 / ~AUD 0.30) per bike.

The nice attendant was more than happy to look after our full faced helmets. (We normally carry them around with us. But it’s not practical here and we reluctantly left them with the bikes. We’re super happy to report that they were still there when we go back.)

There is an entry fee of VND 20,000 (~USD 0.85 / ~AUD 1.20) per person and you can buy the tickets at the office as you go through the gate.

There is also a little souvenir shop with some refreshments on offer and you can take your if you prefer.

What did we think of the experience?

First impression was wow! The river is right there as walk into the garden area and you can go and stand right where the water flows over the edge. I can’t think of any other place we’ve been able to do that. And don’t panic, there is a fence to make sure you don’t go over the edge either.

Seeing the waterfall from above and below was great and we got some great shots. It was also MUCH bigger than it looks in the photos we’ve seen and that was a surprise.

We’re stoked we finally got to see it and it’s well worth a visit if you’re looking to kill a couple of hours on a good day. We don’t think it would be that great in the rain, but leave you to decide for yourself.

We certainly had a bit of fun here. It’s not a major attraction by any means but it’s a good little work out and you come away with some awesome snaps!

It’s well worth visiting if you are in the area.

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…