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Phong NhaTravel Guide

Phong Nha - Ke Bang is a national park in the center of Quang Binh province in north-central Vietnam. It protects one of the world's two largest karst regions with several hundred caves and grottoes. Its name derives from Phong Nha cave, the most beautiful one, with numerous fascinating rock formations, and Ke Bang forest. The plateau is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in Southeast Asia.


Champa inscriptions carved on steles and altars in the cave demonstrate that people had inhabited the cave long before the area was annexed by Vietnam in the Nam Tiến or southward expansion.

In 1550, Dương Văn An was the first Vietnamese man to write about Phong Nha cave. Phong Nha cave was depicted in 9 urns in the Citadel of the Nguyễn Dynasty in Huế.

In 1824, Phong Nha cave was conferred the title "Diệu ứng chi thần"  by king Minh Mạng. It was also conferred by Nguyen kings as "Thần Hiển Linh"

In the late 19th century, Léopold Michel Cadière, a French Catholic priest, conducted an expedition to explore Phong Nha cave, where he discovered Champa scripts. He proclaimed Phong Nha cave "The number one cave of Indochina".In July 1924, an English expeditionist, Barton, stated that Phong Nha cave is second to none of famous caves of Padirac (France), Cuevas del Drach (Spain) as far as the beauty and miracles are concerned.

In 1935, a local inhabitant accidentally discovered a beautiful cave 1 km from Phong Nha cave mouth, at an elevation of 200 m. It was called Tien Son cave (lit.: Fairy-tale cave), or Dry cave because its inside landscape is similar to fairy-tales and it has no underground river.

In 1937, the Bureau of Tourism of French Resident Superior (in Huế) issued a brochure to introduce tourism in Quang Binh and Phong Nha Cave was included in this introduction. This tour site is ranked second in French Indochina. Before 1990, several explorations were conducted by Vietnamese and foreign groups but the mystery of this area still remained. From 1990 on, there marked a turning point in discovering activities, from exploration to research, thus full documents for submission to UNESCO for World Natural Heritage nomination were made available.

For the first time in 1990, Hanoi University accepted the cooperation proposal of the British Cave Research Association. They combined efforts in exploring and researching caves and grottoes in the area comprehensively. The first exploration was conducted in 1990 by a group from the British Cave Research Association and Faculty for Geology and Geography of Hanoi University, led by Howard Limbert. They completed research of a large part of Vom Cave.

In 1992, the second exploration was conducted by a group of 12 British scientists, six professors from Hanoi University. This time, this group completed their exploration of 7,729 m of Phong Nha Cave and 13,690 m of Vom Cave and adjacent caves and grottos. In 1994, a third exploration was carried out by a group of 11 British scientists and five Vietnamese professors of Hanoi University.

In 1999 scientists from the Vietnam-Russia Tropical Centre also conducted zoological and botanical surveys in the Ke Bang area.

From the results of these three explorations, more thorough knowledge of the cave and grotto systems in this park was made available to the Vietnamese and local government for the protection, planning, and tourism development of this park.

In 2005, scientists from the British Cave Research Association discovered a new cave and named it Paradise Cave (động Thiên Đường). The newly discovered cave was acclaimed by the British scientists as "the largest and the most beautiful cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang area".

On June 1, 2006, the Ministry of Culture and Information of Vietnam issued a stamp collection of depicting various landscapes found in Phong Nha-Ke Bang.

In April 2009, a group of cave explorers from British Caving Association conducted survey in this park and adjacent areas. The biggest chamber of Son Doong is over five kilometers in length, 200 meters high and 150 meters wide. With these dimensions, Son Doong overtakes Deer Cave in Malaysia to take the title of the world's largest cave. In this time, they also found many new caves and grottoes in the park and adjacent area.In this survey, the cave British explorers discovered 20 new caves with total length of 56 km, including world's largest cave Son Doong.

Population:Minority Ethnic group - A special culture in Phong Nha – Ke Bang Area

Bru - Vankieu minority ethnic group: Bru-Vankieu is the largest population of the minority ethnic groups in the Truong Son North range. As Nguyen Dinh Khoa (Minority Ethnics in the North of Viet Nam), the Bru -Vankieu belongs to Mon – Kho - Me language group, is local group in the Indochinese Peninsula. As author, The Bru -Vankieu includes the group of the people: Van kieu, Khua, Mang Coong, Tri, So. Among the groups, the Vankieu people is the largest one that distributes most of all provinces along the Truong Son mountain range. The Tri people (or called Tia Ri, Cha Ly, Trui...) and Ma Coong (hay Mang-coong, Muong-kong) with a little distributio in Thuong Trach Commune, Tan Trach commune (Bo Trach district ) and apart in Laos. The Khua people is resident in Dan Hoa Commune of Minh Hoa district.

Chut - minority ethnic group: The Chut group includes Sach, May, Ruc, Arem, Ma Lieng with population of 3.500 heads who are resident mainly in 9 communes of 2 districts Tuyen Hoa and Minh Hoa. In Phong Nha - Ke Bang area, Chut people are living at 6 villages of 2 districts Minh Hoa and Bo Trach except Ma Lieng people with a population of 2.438 inhabitants. In the years 60 of Century 20, the Chut was considered as the secluded group . Until the end of 1973, the peoples of Sach, May, Ruc, Arem, Ma Lieng are in the minority ethnic group as called “ the Chut ethnic”. The Arem people belongs to the Chut minority ethnic group who lives at Arem village of Tan Trach commue, Bo Trach district . This community include 41 households with about 200 heads, is one of races of the Chut ethnic minority ( Statistic 2005).

As mention of Ha Van Tan and Pham Duc Duong, the ethnic people of the Chut ethnic group (named as Chut Poong) and their languages had been separated from Vietnamese-Muong language with the first language separated in around century V-VI, “Chut” means ‘Rem Da in Vietnamese”, means “The stone curtain in English”.

Ethnologists have researched and showed the anthropology data of Chut as below: Stature quite short (157metres), Female is shorter than Male (about 8-10 cm), dark (standard number 12-18 Lusohan). Straight and black hair ,short forehead,short and flat face , cheekbone has average protruding. Chink of eyes slanting quite big, bridge of nose straight majority, lips are quite thicker than other groups.

The common economic structure of the Chut in Phong Nha - Ke Bang includes forms: shifting cultivation , cultivation in the mountainous area, in the delta area, farming, doing sideline and exploitation(hunting, fishing, picking).Economic features in each group has different features. Sach people cultivates in the delta area, beside they also cultivates in the mountainous area ( and hunting, fishing, picking, farming). The rest of the ethnic people lives in the isolated area because they are in backward condition, so that they plant mainly in the mountainous area with very backward cultivation. So cultivation way is poking hole and fitting seek on rock mountain, so leading to low productivity, high risks, so income from foods (rice, manioc) only enough to support them for several months. The rest time in year they must find their livelihood as picking, hunting.


Geographically, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (PNKBNP) is located in central Vietnam, about 500km south of the capital, Hanoi, within the Quang Binh Province.

The western boundary of the Park partially forms Laos-Vietnamese border, which is only 42km from the sea. The Park is found within the geographical co-ordinates of 170 20'-170 48' N and 1050 46-1060 24' E in Bo Trach and Minh Hoa Districts.


Like Bắc Trung Bộ in general and Quang Binh Province in particular, the climate in this national park is tropical, hot, and humid. The annual mean temperature is 23 to 25 °C, with a maximum of 41 °C in the summer and a minimum of 6 °C in the winter. The hottest months in this region fall from June to August, with an average temperature of 28 °C, and the coldest months from December to February with an average temperature of 18 °C. Annual rainfall is 2,000 mm to 2,500 mm, and 88% of the rainfall is from July to December. With more than 160 rainy days per year, no month is without rain. Mean annual relative humidity is 84%.

Recognition by UNESCO in 2003

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was first nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The dossier submited to UNESCO was for the recognition of Phong Nha nature reserve as a world natural heritage under the name “Phong Nha Nature Reserve”. The reason given for the nomination was that this nature reserve satisfied the criteria of biodiversity, unique beauty and geodiversity (criteria I and iv).

It was recognized as a world natural heritage site at the UNESCO's 27th general assembly session being held in Paris in June 30th – July 5th, 2003. At the session, delegates from over 160 member countries of UNESCO World Heritage Convention agreed to include Phong Nha-Ke Bang park and 30 others worldwide in the list of world heritage sites. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park meets with criteria viiii in accordance with UNESCO’s appraisal scale since it displays an impressive amount of evidence of earth’s history and is a site of importance for increasing human understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region.

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