4 years ago when I snapped the above picture at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park I noted how the place felt as ominous and exotic as Skull Island.
I’ve always had a weird obsession with visiting that spot. No not Ke Bang. The island located somewhere off the coast of Sumatra.
4 years later, the cast and crew of Kong: Skull Island filmed scenes at this most other-worldly, fantasy-type piece of paradise in Central Vietnam.
Our trip to Ke Bang was pre-Blogging From Paradise. Galaxy far, far away. Online-wise. Offline-wise.
It *was* the first spot I deemed Skull Island worthy though. Which has to count for something.
I can’t take credit for being a Legendary Entertainment movie studio scout but can claim these images and stories for my eagerly anticipated trip to Skull Island (Note; the visa process was a bitch. No, not for Vietnam. For Skull Island).
Ke Bang spoils you with dramatic, jaw-dropping, pristine green views of rugged mountain scenery. Picture heavy fog quickly rolling in to mask impressive rolling hills, set against the backdrop of primal karsts which dot the landscape.
Roads wind through and around the mountain scenery, giving you a glimpse into life on an exotic little island where Kong once…..I mean, giving you a glimpse into some of Vietnam’s most stunning natural beauty.
The monstrous, 30 foot tall, enraged ape jumped 100 yards as he savaged the jungle landscape…..no, no…..we saw a super duper rare langur – not sure of species – seated high in the tree tops. Looking down on us. Laughing at us, finding us amusing for actually believing his home was Skull Island.
He was like: “DUH, we’re on the mainland, you dingbats!”
Maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before we visited the national park, because I’m not sure if this actually happened.
Wildlife activity was at a minimum as we visited the park on an extremely chilly, rainy day.
I did spot a few large brontosaurus chewing placidly on vegetation beside a colorful pond coated with lily pads, giving off a green sheen….no, no……I saw a few cows lazing the afternoon away beside the pond. Cows. Not dinosaurs.
After riding in what Ben our tour guide noted were Jurassic Park type transport carts (totally true) we found ourselves at the entrance of one of the world’s largest cave complexes.
I felt sad to see the bones of Kong’s relatives scattered throughout the cave as the Last of His Kind stared sadly at the sunset……no, no…..we stepped into the caverns, and enjoyed some fantastic stalag-whatevers and steps toward Dante’s Inferno and slippery, sometimes dangerously designed paths through this cool, impossibly humid labyrinth of Jim Henson-esque proportions.
I fell 100 feet off of a jungle cliff into a stinking, festering crevasse crawling with gigantic spiders, centipedes and other ferocious insect (well ok, arachnid) life. After beating the crap out of these nasties with a human femur I crawled back up the canyon walls to chase the gal of my dreams, who’d be kidnapped by Kong……no, no…..actually…
….We were peer-pressured into kayaking then duped into swimming through a pitch black cave with centipedes, enough bat guano to challenge the sewage system beneath a $4.99 All You Can Eat Buffet Restaurant and yes, we had to actually dive below a cave wall and swim UNDERWATER in utterly blind, completely dark, quite hazardous conditions in a cold, frightening cave.
I’d have rather stolen a bushel of bananas from King Kong himself than swim through a pitch black cave pond.
We crawled onto razor-sharp rocks slimy with filthy, scummy bat guano/lumpy dumps and I almost slipped and busted my rump a few times while getting my footing.
Thank the gods – both Greek and ape – we exited the cave pond fully preserved.
I am writing these words in New York City, in an apartment just about halfway between the Freedom Tower (Kong climbed the World Trade Center Towers in the cheesy ’76 King Kong remake) and The Empire State Building.
Wait a second, what’s that on the top of the Empire State Building? Are those planes circling?…..
Have you been to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park?
Or Skull Island?
I have 16 million eBooks…no, no….I have 126 Blogging From Paradise eBooks for your enjoyment on Amazon.