Visiting Doong Village in Phong Nha – Ke Bang

VietNamNet Bridge – In a valley close to the breathtaking Son Doong Cave, sits a village surrounded by majestic cliffs.

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Seek it out: From afar, the village looks vulnerable yet lovely in the evergreen forest. — VNS Photo Phuong Linh

Doong Village in Tan Trach Commune, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, is home to the Bru-Van Kieu ethnic group. The village is on a flat mound in the middle of a valley close to En Cave and Son Doong Cave. With 10 households and about 42 members, the village is isolated and a mystery to tourists and travellers.

We had to travel nearly 100km from the centre of Dong Hoi City, led by forest ranger Ho Trung Hau, to reach Doong Village. It took us nearly three hours to bend along a little path amongst Truong Son forest, a lot of streams and cliffs to penetrate Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park to see the special village near the entrance to the largest cave in the world.

The little path separates the dense forest and along the Rao Thuong valley, if you take a closer look, you can see the footprints of wild animals. The scenery is more stunning than ever because the streams run for a long time, making mountains split into different caves. The mouths of the caves are close or even under the water surface, creating a mysterious feeling.

At the end of the path, the village appears. From afar, it looks vulnerable yet lovely in the evergreen forest. It is protected by cliffs from four sides, rugged and challenging to any traveller. At sunset, fog and white clouds come down to houses’ roofs, creating a heavenly image for the area. Amidst the space, we admired an ancient tree wide enough for 12 people to hold together. It is nearly 1,000 years old.

That the village is 1,000m above sea level make the temperature often below 25oC. Humid and fresh, quiet and green, the environment in Doong Village suits the rustic. In the village, they have no electricity, no concrete roads, no mobile phone wave and no market. None of the villagers know much of the lands beyond their village. However, since the Oxalis Company first brought tourists to visit Son Doong Cave, the village has become a place for rest for adventurers.

After reaching the house of Nguyen Van Tuong, a villager, we drank wine with him and listened to him talk about lives of local people. “The villagers live on the forest. Every day, we go to the forest to pick bamboo, catch fish in the streams. We live for the moment rather than making plans for the future.” Tuong said.

“Some visitors found us poor, so they gave us food before they came to the cave as a way of paying tribute to those who help preserve the world’s heritage,” he added

Besides looking for vegetables, picking bamboo and catching fish in the forest, recently, Doong villagers have planted maize and cassava. There used to be two hectares of rice fields along the streams. But for years, there has been no water, so it is abandoned. Local people have to live on subsidised rice from the State. Due to the village’s isolation, Doong villagers rarely go down the mountains. So, roads and electricity are still a dream for them.

Most Doong villagers have never left their home. They look at us with curious and shy eyes. But they kindly let us approach them, and we were even encouraged to join animal hunting with men.

Every five to seven days, men in the village take their dogs to the forest to hunt animals. They don’t have any traps or weapons but use dogs to run after and catch small animals. During the hunting session, everyone is excited. They scream to encourage the dogs to follow the animals until they are exhausted and caught. It is an awesome and strange experience for any visitor.

Although Doong Village still lacks tourist services, its pristine and mysterious beauty is attractive to adventurers who come here for Son Doong Cave and local life. Nguyen Chau A, director of the Oxalis Company, revealed that “We have a plan to arrange for visitors to stay in the village longer, so they will have more interesting experience in the journey to Son Doong Cave because Doong Village still preserves the untouched cultural and spiritual values.” 

By Tu Le

Source: VNS

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