Have an extra day in your Phong Nha itinerary and need ideas of what to do? Visit Bong Lai Valley (Bồng Lai in Vietnamese). It’s a hidden gem in Vietnam and only 13 kilometers (8 miles) away from the Phong Nha Tourism Center, where you get tickets to see the UNESCO recognized caves.
Take a motorbike or ride a bicycle and explore the quiet, rural areas with rice fields and agricultural lands and wander through the small villages and off-the-beaten paths. We borrowed bicycles from our guesthouse and loved the experience!
Since this is an undiscovered area, we’re sharing this Bong Lai Valley guide with helpful tips on how to enjoy this day trip by bicycle or motorbike and tourist places to visit during your ride. Enjoy your time!
Map of Bong Lai Valley
We recommend that you save a copy of the Phong Nha map on your phone. Download a free copy of the village map here.
Amount of Time Needed for Bong Lai Valley
How long do you need to spend at Bong Lai Valley? You’ll need to allocate a minimum of 3 hours up to a full day exploring the area. The transportation mode is also a factor with the amount of time spent, which we’ll explain further below.
You may consider leaving the area before sunset since the roads will be dark, especially if riding a bicycle.
How to Get to Bong Lai Valley
The best way to get there is to ride a motorbike or a bicycle. Cars are not allowed in the village areas due to the narrow dirt paths. The paths will be a muddy mess after a rainy day, so motorbike drivers need to be comfortable riding in these conditions.
Here is a map to highlight the two routes we’ll mention below.
The purple line is a paved route that starts from the Phong Nha Tourism Center to the Original Pub with Cold Beer. The orange line is the muddy route that uses the highway.
Route #1 (Recommended): Take the paved route and avoid the Ho Chi Minh Highway.
We received this helpful tip after visiting Mamma D’s Rooftop the night before.
- From Phong Nha Town, turn left at the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Hollywood sign.
- Continue along the road and follow the river.
- When you enter a village, you continue to stay right. You’ll see a Bong Lai Valley sign to veer right. If you reach the Ho Chi Minh Highway, you’ve gone a tad too far.
- Continue the paved path all the way done and you can cross a bridge to visit the Pub with Cold Beer.
Note: This one-way route is slightly longer so expect to travel 15 kilometers (9.3 miles). Also, there are hills once you enter the Bong Lai area. If you’re riding a bicycle, you’ll need to stand up and pedal or walk your bike up the hill.
Route #2: If you prefer a straighter path, take the Ho Chi Minh Highway.
- From Phong Nha Town, turn right onto Ho Chi Minh City Highway.
- Drive or cycle for 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and turn right on the side street that leads to Bong Lai Valley.
Note: You will be driving on the highway and will share the road with large trucks and cars. The highway road isn’t large so you’ll spend most of the time riding along the right side of the road.
This route avoids the paved route so you’ll drive along a bumpy, muddy road to head to Bong Lai. It’s terrible and is not advisable for beginner riders as the chance of slipping is high.
To return to the main Phong Nha Town, you can use the same route as before, or try the other route mentioned.
What to Bring on your Bong Lai Valley Experience
There isn’t any shade along the roads, so it’s recommended to wear sunscreen and a sunhat. You may need insect repellent around the farming areas. Don’t forget to bring water with you.
As with helmets, it’s always recommended to wear one for a motorbike and bicycle. Our homestay didn’t have any bicycle helmets so we were out of luck. Luckily, there wasn’t any traffic on the roads.
Things to Do in Bong Lai Valley
At the time of publication, many of the attractions were closed due to the recent floods and the travel restrictions. It’s recommended to check with locals living in the area to see if the attractions are open.
1. Get lost as you wander through the villages.
With little traffic on the road, it’s easy to wander around the villages on your motorbike or bicycle for a few hours. Stop and take photos of farmers working in their fields. See water buffaloes and cows crossing the roads or munching on the grass. Children will also come up to you and say “hello.” You’ll love how green the area is!
2. Enjoy a meal at the original Pub with Cold Beer.
Want a cold beer and to try grilled chicken? Head to the famous spot of Bong Lai Valley, Pub with Cold Beer. It’s a farm to table restaurant and with cheap food and awesome views of the river. Food prices are between 30,000-50,000 VND ($1.30-$2.20 USD).
They have a popular dish of 1 kg (2.2 pounds) grilled chicken. The cost is 200,000 VND ($8.60) per kilo. One of our travel blogging friends mentioned that you could kill your own chicken as a memorable experience.
Or, try the grilled pork with a mountain of rice and peanut sauce. The grilled pork has a deep charbroiled flavor and is moist. The peanut sauce is highly addictive and can be eaten with anything, including vegetarian spring rolls.
For the vegetarians, you’ll be thrilled to hear that half of the menu has vegetarian options such as deep-fried spring rolls, stir-fry noodles with vegetables or egg, and rice with veggies and eggs. The vegetables are picked fresh from their garden. The spring rolls and noodles with vegetables use the same ingredients yet they are delicious!
Heads up – The portions are HUGE. You can easily share one plate of food with two people.
After your meal, go for a swim in the pool or take a nap on a hammock.
To get to the Pub with Cold Beer from the paved path, you’ll see a sign for the Pub pointing right. Afterward, cross the Bong Lai Bridge (Cầu Bồng Lai) and turn right on the main road. It’ll be another 200 meters (.12 miles) and located on the left side. For the visitors riding bicycles, you will need to walk this section. The muddy path is too challenging to ride a bicycle safely.
Note: There is a copycat version that you’ll pass on the paved road. It’s sneaky since the signage is the same as the original.
3. Feed the ducks at the Duck Stop.
What’s not to love about hundreds of ducks flocking to you as you feed them? The Duck Stop is located 1 kilometer (.6 miles) from the original Pub with Cold Beer and is one of the top tourist attractions in Bong Lai.
4. Swing as high as you can at Bong Lai Swing.
We saw some incredible photos of travelers on the swing overlooking the river at Bong Lai Swing (also referred to as Wild Boar Eco Farm). They are Instagram-worthy just like the swings in Bali! It’s on the bucket list to visit this place when we return to Phong Nha.
This place is located at the end of the muddy path (about 2.2 kilometers/1.4 miles from the original Pub with Cold Beer in the opposite direction).
5. Eat at Moi Moi Restaurant.
We know, another restaurant?! They’re known for their fresh pork and Vietnamese food. They have hammocks for you to relax while you wait for your food. Unfortunately, this place was closed so we haven’t tried it yet.
To get to Moi Moi Restaurant, you’ll need to cross a dirt/muddy path from the paved road. It’s the first place that you’ll see along the paved road.
We can’t wait to return to Bong Lai to visit the attractions that we originally missed. We would love to ride bicycles again as the healthier option or ride a motorbike (as long as the roads are too muddy!)
Headed to other areas of Vietnam after Phong Nha? Check out our helpful posts below.