Day 16 - Wednesday, November 20
Distance - 142 kms = total for day ~ 3.5 hrs
Trip Odometer = 1843 kms
Route - Huong Khe - Phong Nha Farmstay. South from Huong Khe on HCMT (Ho Chi Minh Trail) to Son Trach (for lunch) then to Phong Nha Farmstay.
Hotel - Phong Nha Farmstay (600,000d = $30)
Weather - Dry and cloudy and then wet and cold. By lunch it cleared up which was good.
We had a fairly quick zip to the Phong Nha Farmstay, our welcomed oasis. It was wet, yet again, but we managed to pound down the kms throughout the morning on the HCMT. We arrived to the town of Son Trach at lunchtime so we pulled up to one of the many street stalls in the main market area and sat down for a hot lunch before proceeding the final few kilometers to the Farmstay.
I had made a reservation at the Phong Nha Farmstay online as it was stated that they fill up quickly due to their popularity. There were also a range of accommodation options in the town of Son Trach, but we wanted the luxury of the travellers paradise at the Farmstay.
As it is stated clearly on both their website and on Trip Advisor, the Phong Nha Farmstay isn't really a 'farmstay' per-say, but instead a lovely traveler's oasis set in amongst rural farmland within this area of Vietnam (we weren't sleeping in barns with the local pigs and chickens if that is what you think of when you hear 'farmstay'). They offer a plethora of tours and trips that can be booked right from the hotel reception. Also, seeing that it is in a rural location, they offer a wonderful restaurant at the Farmstay with a variety of western and Vietnamese options in addition to a wide assortment of cocktails, spirits, wines and beers
Our plan was to stay at the Farmstay for x2 nights and to tour the Phong Nha cave systems in the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park the following day. We booked this through one of the day long tours the Farmstay offers as we wanted to be on auto-pilot as tourists for the day.
The owners are an Australian and Vietnamese couple and the Farmstay is located right in the village where Bich grew up. It employs all of her immediate family and many others from the Village and surrounding area. This is Ben and Bich's Ural pictured above. Ben mentioned that he took the family (they have x1 boy) on a trip throughout the north on this bike and it sounds like they covered a loop similar to our route in the north.
Next day - tour through the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park visiting the Paradise Cave, 8 lady temple, and kayaking into the Dark Cave - a full day adventure off the bikes... can't wait!