Unconvinced by the road safety, we took a sleeper train to travel South. While less comfortable than our train in Thailand, and with toilets to be avoided at all costs, we arrived sleepy but safely in Dong Hoi. With a couple of other confused looking travellers, we ignored the pushy taxi drivers and followed the directions of a helpful local, who ended up leading the way to a bus stop about a mile along a busy main road. A long and bumpy ride took us deep into rural Vietnam to the tiny town of Phong Nha - this outdoor lovers paradise has so far modestly retained its off-the-beaten-track feel despite being increasingly on the tourist radar. Even with a few other tourists around, it felt extremely isolated, with relatively limited facilities - the 400 million year old karst landscape was almost intimidating in its wildness, and it was hard to imagine the lives of those who lived here through the Vietnam War. We stayed in a homestay which had only been open for a few weeks - the owner had been a farmer his entire life but wanted to make a business to leave his children. His approach was somewhat inappropriate but endearing in his distinct lack of experience - at the same time every day we would get a persistent knock on our bedroom door asking to join downstairs for a drink, in the form of shots, of his strong homemade alcohol. He didn’t speak any English, so would spend the evenings translating questionable statements on his phone, while his son practiced his broken English learnt at school. The family’s generosity and hospitality totally transcended any language barrier and cultural differences - like Laojia in China, this was a really memorable experience allowing us to gain an insight into authentic rural life #ricewineanddine
“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust.
-Lawrence M. Krauss