Tim and Lindsey
Phong Nha Botanical Gardens, Where’s the Bedding Plants?
We have visited many Botanical Gardens on our GrownUp Travels so when we heard there was Phong Nha Botanical Garden here, we decided to visit.
If I put in Botanical Garden in the website search facility here, I get 11 different blogs. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, but I can’t find the blog from Kandy, Sri Lanka. Perhaps that’s before we had the website.
Anyhow, when we heard there was a Botanical Garden here in Phong Nha, we decided to visit. It was too far to walk and too steep to cycle, we were told, so we hired a little 50cc motorbike from our hotel to travel the 12 km out of town.
On the way, we had brunch at the Bamboo Café, with delicious food and delightfully friendly staff, and put in a litre of petrol in the tank for our short journey. After driving past fields, quite a few burial sites, cows in the road, then up the side of karst hills, we reached Phong Nha Botanical Gardens.
I am not sure why it’s called a Botanical Garden. There’s no pretty flower beds or neat cut lawns here. Perhaps it’s because a few different species of the trees and plants are marked with name signs.
We paid our entrance fee and was given an A4 map which was rather scant in detail. Walking over a rickety log bridge, we entered the Display House. Many jars lined two walls with pickled frogs, snakes and other small creatures. On another wall was a glass display of stuffed animals, including an almighty boa constrictor. Crikey, do they have them here?
We commenced on our trek around the 40 ha of land, me with a feeling of trepidation. Would we be “lucky” enough to see one of these slivering creatures?
Our paper map didn’t show the river, so we weren’t sure whether we needed to carefully cross it using a natural bridge of boulders, or cut through the bush. We correctly chose the former and came to Vang Anh Lake. I can imagine, in the heat of summer, it is a fabulous place to cool off, but it is winter here so we weren’t prepared to get down to our undies and dip into the remarkably fresh, clear water. I did put my hand in, the water was tepid, certainly not as cold as I was expecting.
Along the path, we passed many of the 500 plant species here, providing a rich habitat for the birds and animals. One bird mocked us incessantly. We could hear it up in the tree but just couldn’t spot it. Occasionally it would make what sounded like a raucous laugh. What a tease!
We both love walking through forests, and this one was no exception. There is something calming being amongst trees; I had forgotten all about seeing giant snakes here.
Passing a Sao tree over 100 years old, we came to a pen with peacocks huddled under the canopy. Why were they here? We wondered if they bring the place good luck or prosperity. On further research, I’ve discovered that they are indigenous to Vietnam as well as Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and parts of China and Malaysia, and are endangered in the wild. That explains it!
We walked parallel to the river and followed signs to Thac Gio waterfall. The path took us down over slippery rocks to a great view of the 30 m waterfall. The journey was quite precarious. I cannot imagine this being allowed in the UK; there’s not many health and safety rules and regulations here.
We shuffled over narrow ledges with the roaring river beneath our feet, crossed smooth slippery rocks, hanging on to a rope handrail, climbing wooden ladders and balancing over rocks to get back to the main pathway. Just on the last crossing, I slipped, and my foot splashed into the stream. It was raining anyway, so a wet foot and ankle was just an inconvenience. Hey ho!
By the time we got back to our motorbike, the rain was coming down quite hard. All we wanted to do was to go back to our hotel for a nice hot shower, have a rest and prepare for our adventure tomorrow.
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