The way to Paradise in Vietnam

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The way to Paradise includes a 500-meter climb amid humming birds and cicada songs.

In Vietnam, Paradise is a cave thus named by a British Cave Research Association team, who came following its discovery by local man Ho Khanh in 2005.

The team called it the most beautiful cave in the world for its stalactite structures. They also said it was the longest dry cave in Asia.

Paradise opened to tourists in 2011, one of 300 different caves and grottos at the world famous Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the central province of Quang Binh. The park, in which only some of the caves are accessible to the public, won UNESCO recognition in 2003 for having unique limestone structures and the oldest karst formation in Asia, dating back some 400 million years ago.

Many tourists combine cave visits with a stop in Hue, Vietnam's former imperial capital around 200 kilometers from the caves.

One can start off from Hue at 7 a.m. to reach Phong Nha-Ke Bang by noon for lunch before digging in. Restaurants in the area all serve steamed or barbecued perch, a brackish water fish that is the region's speciality. The area is also known for its perch sour soup.

Paradise is another 30 kilometers from the park entrance, along a dirt road that lies between mountains dotted with streams, old green forests, and paddy fields.

The road has been upgraded for tourism purposes and it takes around half an hour for a car to pass.

Then there's a hill up into Paradise. One can climb the full two kilometers, or just around 500 meters as an electric car service is available for the first 1.5 kilometers of the path. The car costs  VND100,000-200,000 (US$4.74-9.50) a return trip.

Ho Khanh, who led the British spelunkers to the world's largest cave, nearby Son Doong, discovered Paradise when he felt a flow of cool air while going to his field.

He followed the air and found a hole. He squeezed himself through it and the further he walked in, the larger the space in front of him opened up until he reached masses of stalactites and stalagmites in unique shapes and sizes.

The masses have earned names after their shapes, which include a waterfall flowing from the sky, fairies gathering, a house on stilts, chandeliers, a giant elephant and a swinging dolphin.

Temperatures are around 20 degrees Celsius.

Paradise is around 31 kilometers long but only the first kilometer is available for tourists. Wooden stairs have been added for them to walk around.

A tourguide named Son said in a Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon Online they can take tourist groups further inside upon their demands, but such tours were not popular given the difficult paths inside.

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