The Great Caves of Vietnam

Back when I was in San Francisco a friend told me about the world’s biggest cave being in Vietnam. I definitely had to see it. And now Dev and I are making our way to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

Phong Nha Map

On the way we stop to see the Vinh Moc tunnels. Unlike the Cu Chi tunnels, this one had been inhabited by civilians. 60 families lived in these tunnels, and ~17 children were born in the tunnels. The tunnels were also a lot bigger than the Cu Chi tunnels, being dug out of limestone, which is more structurally sound than dirt.


Children who were born in the tunnels.IMG_2703

Here is the room where women would give birth.


You can see the tunnels are big enough to easily walk through.


One nice aspect of these tunnels is that it had paths that led to the beach.


We leave the tunnels, heading on a 2-hour ride to our main destination, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Son Doong, the world’s biggest cave is here, but it’s off limits to the public at this time.

No worries, Paradise Cave is open to the public! Discovered in 2005, it was opened to the public in 2010. This cave is 31 km long, with parts of it reaching 100m in width and 150m in height. Only 1km is open to the public; going any deeper requires hiring a tour guide. Since I heard that going deeper requires swimming in some parts, I decided not to try that option being a weak swimmer.

The cave is impressive, it’s huge, and well-lit. Walking into the cave feels like walking into an air conditioned room, a refreshing break from the heat just outside. Unfortunately, the vastness of this cave cannot be caught in photos; you actually have to see it yourself!

It’s hard to capture the depth here, but there’s like 150 steps to the bottom of the cave from the entrance.


Here is one huge stalagmite.


It looks like a giant foot!


Me trying to capture the depth of this cave, but the camera fails me.


One downside of opening to the public was the lack of respect people have for a natural wonder; Dev saw one man urinating in the cave; I saw another man smoking. Shaking my head…

The next day Dev and I visited Phong Nha, a wet cave. This cave required hiring a boat for 350k dong, which is about $17 dollars. We ended up splitting a boat with 4 locals, one man and three teenage boys.

We start out near our hostel, which is located next to this river.


View from the front of the boat.


Boats queuing to get into the cave.


The entrance.


It was a different experience than Paradise cave, being rowed in a boat through it all, rather than walking. It wasn’t as vast as Paradise Cave. At one part they lets us off the boat and walk around a part of the cave. It felt like walking on Mars, the reddish rock, and the stalactites and stalagmites look out of this world. Again, photos don’t do it justice.


One part of the cave had lights and music; it felt like a Disneyland ride in some way.

One of the locals was excited to have a few photos taken with Dev and I, us being foreigners.


I was glad to have seen two great caves in Vietnam. As we left the park, we heard from a fellow traveler that they have possibly found an even bigger cave – seems like the national park is now getting a lot more attention from with all the recent cave discoveries. It’s amazing that it’s 2013, and there are still discoveries being made. I find it humbling.

Next up: Riding on a junk boat in Halong Bay


3 thoughts on “The Great Caves of Vietnam

  1. It’s amazing that people lived in tunnels… at least they had access to the beach!

    The lights/music part of the cave was interesting… it looks pretty neat with different colors! Did the feeling of it being more of a Disney ride change your feeling of the experience?

    The boat photos are super pretty – love them πŸ™‚

    • Yea, the lights and colors is not something a national park in the States would do. Also there wasn’t much education throughout the cave as to what stalagmites and stalactites even are, and as most people don’t have your guides, they aren’t really learning about what they are looking at. In the States, the parks always have posters explaining what you’re looking at.

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