A WHOLE NEW WORLD

An upcoming festival will promote the beauty and uniqueness of Vietnam’s “Kingdom of Caves”.

By Le Diem on July 13,2019 11:01 AM

A WHOLE NEW WORLD

PHOTOS OXALIS ADVENTURE TOURS

Quang Binh, Vietnam’s “Kingdom of Caves”, will soon be the center of attention as it hosts a cave festival from July 20 to August 20 with a whole host of tourism and cultural activities.

Held biennially in the central province, the festival aims to promote its unique and grand network of over 400 magnificent caves among domestic and foreign tourists, investors, and travel companies, according to the provincial Department of Tourism. It’s also a chance to raise public awareness, especially in young people, about actively protecting, preserving, and promoting the country’s natural heritage and cultural values and the potential of tourism in Quang Binh.

This year, the festival’s opening ceremony will take place on July 20 at both Bao Ninh Square in the provincial capital of Dong Hoi and the Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave ecological tourism area in Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage and home to hundreds of caves, including Son Doong Cave - the world’s largest according to the World Records Union and the World Record Association. Entry to Phong Nha and Thien Duong Caves will be half price and free for visitors attending the festival.

Forty-four new caves were discovered in Quang Binh last year, all of which are wet grottoes and range from 44 meters to 602 meters above sea level, with the majority being between 200 and 350 meters.

Forty-four new caves were discovered in Quang Binh last year, all of which are wet grottoes and range from 44 meters to 602 meters above sea level, with the majority being between 200 and 350 meters.

Other tourism products and services in Quang Binh will be introduced in a promotional program offering discounts of 10-20 per cent. A separate tourism promotion campaign targeting tourists from South Korea will be held in the country and at Quang Binh from July 10 to August 8.

Forty-four new caves were discovered in Quang Binh last year, all of which are wet grottoes and range from 44 meters to 602 meters above sea level, with the majority being between 200 and 350 meters. Various types of stalactites are found in these caves, including mineral deposit stalactites, water-flow-created stalactites, and decentralized stalactites. Earlier this year, a new underwater tunnel connecting another cave to Son Doong Cave was found by British divers, making the network even larger than previously known. The new cave was named Hang Thung and adds an additional 1.6 million cu m in volume to Son Doong, which now measures 38.5 million cu m.

These new caves raise the total number discovered in the area to over 400, including 58 discovered in 2017, according to the national park’s management board. Many are open to tourists, including the popular Son Doong, Tu Lan, En, Va, Nuoc Nut, Tien, Thien Duong, and Phong Nha, with Dai A, Over, Pygmy, Vom and Gieng Vooc joining last year, making Quang Binh one of Vietnam’s many tourism hotspots.

New trips and tour packages to Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park will also be introduced at this year’s festival.

One is a pilot of tours to discover the landscapes and culture of the Van Kieu ethnic minority people in Quang Ninh and Le Thuy districts, which also have Nuoc and Cha Loi Caves, Tien Lake, and Hang Coi and Cay Sung villages. Different from other tours, these promise to provide visitors with a truly unique experience, according to Mr. Tran Xuan Cuong, Director of NETIN, the travel operator conducting the tours. Visitors can explore not only the natural surroundings and caves but also the history, life, and culture of local people, where General Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnam’s Military Legend worked and where soldiers from the North waited before marching into the southern battlefield in the 1960s and 70s.

Another destination is Ozo Treetop Park, featuring the most adventurous outdoor games in the country both at the treetop-level and in water. Located in the primary forest of Phong Nha - Ke Bang on more than 5 ha, the park boasts rich biological diversity, characterized by limestone-based ecosystems. Visitors can walk over wooden bridges and along bamboo footpaths in an area almost entirely covered by ancient forests, cut through by the lazily-flowing Ozo Stream. They can also challenge themselves on treetop adventure courses, with ziplines, ropes, bridges, hanging steps, and swings, etc., or

enjoy kayaking or rafting along the stream. Last but not least, overnight camping in the middle of the primary forest is also available. Daily activities run from two to eight hours and start from VND200,000 ($8.6) per person.

The festival will also introduce two new boat tours piloted earlier this year for the first time by Oxalis Adventure Tours, the exclusive adventure tour operator to Son Doong Cave. The one-day tour involves a boat ride along the Son River, which flows from the entrance of Phong Nha Cave and passes through picturesque scenes of mountain ranges, green fields, and local houses. The boat docks at floating fishing villages and other traditional craft villages making “non la” (conical hats), a cultural symbol of Vietnam, as well as rice paper and rice wine, and are where visitors can watch local people going about their daily lives. Another tour takes visitors on a different route with magnificent sunset views along the river before enjoying a BBQ dinner of delicious local food. Visitors can also kayak and cycle to small villages in Phong Nha - Ke Bang.

The first direct air route between Quang Binh’s Dong Hoi city and central Da Nang city will also be launched at the festival. The new route, by seaplane, shortens the overland travel time from 6-7 hours to just 70 minutes, and offers wonderful sightseeing along the way.

A WHOLE NEW WORLD

Cultural and arts programs will also take place. An exhibition depicts the province’s socioeconomic achievements after 30 years of re-establishment, while music and street art performances will see the participation of famous local artists. Boat racing and a cuisine festival also add great vibes to the festival.

Quang Binh has seen a surge in visitors this year and last, especially international arrivals. It welcomed 3.9 million last year, up 18.2 per cent against 2017, including 200,000 foreigners, up 53 per cent. In the first six months of this year the figure neared 2.5 million, including 133,000 foreigners, up 20 and 31 per cent, respectively, against the same period last year.

The province has conducted marketing programs overseas to attract more tourists, including the first promotional program on Quang Binh in Hollywood, with Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the director of the 2017 blockbuster “Kong: Skull Island”, sharing his experience of filming in the locality, and it also joined the annual New York Times Travel Show, offered cave trips to experts to discover Son Doong, and held promotional events in South Korea and on Google and YouTube.

It targets welcoming 4.3 million visitors this year, with some 250,000-300,000 foreigners, and to earn total revenue of about VND5 trillion ($215 million) and make Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park and Son Doong Cave among Vietnam’s tourism symbols, together with Ha Long Bay.

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