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Ban Doong – A special village in Vietnam, untouched by modern civilization!

Have you ever had a chance to interact with a jungle tribe, people that live far away from civilization and are born adept in the art of survival in the wilderness? With about 40 such people as the residents with bare minimum living conditions, Ban Doong is a minority village that lies deep in the heart of Vietnam’s cave kingdom, the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.

You will have the once-in-a lifetime chance to meet and spend time with the Ban Doong village people when you’re on your way to explore the Son Doong cave and Hang En cave with Oxalis Adventure.

Ban Doong – A special jungle village

Located around 36 KM from Phong Nha town, the Ban Doong village is a very special part of the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park that is rather less known to the outside world, due to the fact that it is located deep in the middle of the wilderness and far away from the touch of modern civilization. The village is surrounded by dense jungle, rivers, towering karst hills and getting to the village through the jungle is an adventure in itself. The village has small farms, cattle and ten houses for the village people.

The inhabitants of this village belong to the Bru Van Kieu tribe; the Bru Van Kieu people are primarily based in the Truong Son massif and the inhabitants of the Ban Doong village moved from the Truong Son massif to Ban Doong in order to protect themselves from the harsh flood that hit the area back in 1992. It is also known that many of the Bru Van Kieu people from the Truong Son Massif still come to visit the Ban Doong Village people often. These people are real jungle men and women who are happy to be where they are and wouldn’t change it for the world. There are just over 40 people living there, out of which 20 are children! The Ban Doong village people can understand and speak Vietnamese, but communicate in their own dialect on a daily basis.

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The fact that people of Ban Doong live in a jungle and are what you would refer to as jungle men and women, makes them have a very unique and amusing perspective towards life and the way they live it. The local government had made offers of relocation to the people of Ban Doong wherein they’d be able to move closer to civilization and live in the houses that the government offered to build for them; this wonderful offer was politely declined by the Ban Doong village people. The residents believe they’re too connected to the nature and for them peacefully living in the heart of the wilderness is bliss, compared to surviving in the bustle of modern civilization. The people from Doong village were born in the jungle and consider it difficult to adapt to a completely distinct environment that’s in the outside world.

Mr. Toa – The man who started it all

After the flood struck the Truong Son massif in 1992, Mr. Toa, his wife, sister-in-law and brother migrated into the jungle in search of a safe haven. They found a land which later went to become the Ban Doong village. Started with nothing but raw jungle spirit and survival instincts, Mr. Toa and his family began farming, fishing, raising cattle and just about anything to continue their survival in the wild. What began with a family of four is now one of over forty; all the inhabitants of the Ban Doong village are actually a big happy family!

Born in 1950, Mr. Toa is the chief of the village and is the supreme authority in terms of decision making in the village. He began with a humane want for him and his family to survive and later decided on establishing Ban Doong as a village that the future generations could be proud of. When asked about his thoughts on the prospect of moving out of the jungle, he expressed that if he wakes up and doesn’t find himself surrounded by the wilderness, he wouldn’t feel at peace or comfortable. It is also an interesting fact that Mr. Toa isn’t actually from the Bru Van Kieu tribe, but belongs to the Kinh tribe and it’s his wife that has the Bru Van Kieu bloodline.

Young, wild and free – The children of Ban Doong

When you visit the Ban Doong village, you will see that the children always have bright smiles on their faces. They know how to take care of the younger ones, help out the parents with activities like farming and cooking or run around in the open jungle with genuine happiness. The children are aged between 1 to 16 years and Ban Doong has a small school for them to get free education, which was built by Oxalis Adventure. It is very fascinating to see the 10-16 year olds going to the jungle and while they have fun, they’re also constantly getting more adept with survival in the wild. What’s also amazing is that the local government bears all the expenses and supports further education of the children by sending them to the Ethnic Minority Boarding School in Dong Hoi city; located about 45km away from Phong Nha. So, once the children have completed primary school education in their own village, they can move to Dong Hoi and pursue further education.

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Primitive and peaceful – A day in the life of Ban Doong

By now, you would’ve understood that these jungle men, women and children lead an incredibly simplistic life. The daily life of the Ban Doong village people revolves around farming; the primary harvest is that of cassava, rice and beans. More than selling the agricultural produce for monetary benefits, the villagers use it for their own daily food needs and survival. If they do wish to make some money off it, they make their way to Phong Nha to make a sale. Apart from the agricultural aspect, the villagers often visit the river to catch fish and spend time raising buffaloes and cows to serve the village in different ways. The people here truly live by the thought “the early bird gets the worm” and hence end their nights early. It’s a beautiful sight; the men and women basking in the sun, working in harmony, smiling and the children getting educated even by being in the middle of a dense jungle.

Development through the years – how Oxalis Adventure supported Ban Doong

Over the years, the Ban Doong village has developed greatly with infrastructure and other factors that make survival in the jungle more comfortable. Oxalis Adventure has always stood in support of the village and continues to provide aid in terms of food and basic necessities whenever required. As mentioned earlier, the school providing free education to the kids was constructed by Oxalis and two teachers were also employed, along with scholarships for the children every year. Oxalis also built 11 septic toilets in 2017, a water supply system and provides cooking essentials and stock to the village to ease their survival during the rainy season. The travelers that join the Son Doong Expedition or the Hang En Adventure with Oxalis are lucky enough to be able to spend time with the amazing people of Ban Doong village and while they’re fascinated by the jungle lifestyle of the villagers, they support them by gifting clothes or toys and books for the young ones. Another special thing Oxalis does for the kids of Ban Doong is collecting pictures from the customers, printing them out and sending them to the village.

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Till 2018, the Ban Doong people had absolutely no electricity running through their village and this was changed when the Italian ambassador to Vietnam visited the Son Doong Cave and after meeting with the village people, decided to sponsor a solar panel for the village in order to let the big jungle family enjoy certain perks of electricity. Now some people in the village even have television sets and radios for entertainment; whenever they visit the town, they buy a couple of movie discs and upon their return to the village, are greeted with excitement as the whole village will sit together and enjoy watching movies later in the day.  

Mr. Toa’s hope for the future is for his children and grandchildren to continue getting educated and making themselves capable individuals who can change the face of the village and go on to live a good life in the outside world. The Ban Doong village is certainly one of the most unique and fascinating villages in the whole world and whenever you visit Vietnam, don’t miss a chance to explore two of the biggest caves on Earth with the Son Doong Expedition and spend quality time with the people of Ban Doong!