July 01, 2014

Conquer Son Doong the Biggest Cave in Vienam

After three hiking hours, the cavern of Son Dong cave eventually appears right in front of our eyes. Standing there, we can feel clearly how different the inside temperature from to outside is. The biggest dome cave can hold a skyscraper up to 40 storey building

The whole world was getting overwhelmed with the biggest, nature-made cave after the British Cave Research Association (BCRA) announcing their discovery. Till this time, however, Vietnamese explorers don’t have enough competence to trek into Son Doong cave; even professional trekkers showed up their discomposure. They can dive without oxygen supplying equipment into underground rivers, or drop themselves down from cliff by ropes but they are very unconfident with professional accessories.

Son Doong Cave
Son Doong Cave
Our current items included cheap, regular cameras, fabric boots and plastic water bottles in order to pass through no footprint jungles or unimaginable mountain peaks. To have amazing photo collections, BCRA and BBC news, NHK later on had to bring with hundred kilograms of equipment from electric suppliers to diving suits or professional cameras to climbing supporting items ect

The entire area is in the core of Phong Nha National Park which is already well-known for its natural beauty and server records of Phong Nha cave and Paradise cave. Son Doong cave now is the one keeping the world records of the biggest cave dome which can hold a 40 storey high building.

The story of Son Doong started since 1999. When a local man, Ho Khanh, successfully led the team of BCRA trekking to Son Doong inside. Then, the magnificent beauty of stalagmite, underground rivers and sand dunes ect were all become famous globally.

This time, on our Son Doongcave trek expedition, we met Ho Khanh again. He was taking a researching team to study Son Dong botanical system. His team was moving quickly through dirty, muddy trails and the further they go their higher the slope.

Trekking Son Doong Cave
Trekking Son Doong Cave
To reach to the cave mouth, we had to hike along shallow stream with hard rocks, then climb up to mountain slope with countless sharp stones rising up from ground like knives. Even with a small wrong step, you can fall down. The slopes continue to another seeming never ends. You will feel nearly out of breath and each foot step is a burden. If there were no fellow passengers encourage words, some might give up at half way.

After 3 hours hiking, Son Doong cave finally shown up in our eye view – mysterious and dim scenery exactly as described by The Lu writer in his book “Gold and Blood”. We had to move along inclined mountain slopes with thousands of rocky fins stacking layers to layers to reach to cave entrance. Those rocky fins may be created by natural sedimentation from rivers pouring down.

Standing at the cave mouth, we can clearly feel the temperature difference between inside and outside. According to local words, Ho Khanh, many years ago, also felt this cold air stream then followed it to discover Son Doong cave. This is strong, cold wind which is telling that they come from a deep, big air space.

The scenery when we were walking inside was not similar to things appeared on Internet. Because of just dozen meter walk, the darkness covered everything. Although the light from the touch on our forehead hats just helped to see in a few meter far, the wonder of stalagmite was stunning. In million years of time, water has made a wonder world inside Truong Son range, and this creation is still on progress.

Trekking Son Doong Cave
Trekking Son Doong Cave
At the cave base, in flat places, there were thousands of small, ball stones which were the products of calcium sedimentation around an initial core and the slow flow of water. This process is quite similar to the creation of pearl. Furthermore, there were many animal fossils close to the entrance but we did not know that was tiger or other species.

Keep our trail inside the huge cave until we reach to the abyss dividing Son Doong cave into two parts – named “Vietnam Wall”. Standing at the abyss’ edge and dropping a stone into it, we only heard the sound reflection after minutes. This is actually an 80 meter deep abyss and our journey must stop there. There were no one can across this abyss except professional caving explorers.

Truly different from visiting Phong Nha or Paradise cave which are interfered to the ground to be flatter and installed with lighting system, each step in Son dong cave is a true adventure. The high humidity in atmosphere made our eyes hardly see and our regular cameras could not take wonderful photos as in magazines. Sometime, I felt our trek to Son Dong inside was similar to playing in casino. The time was passing as quickly as we didn’t even recognize it.

After lunch, we went back in hurry. The journey was similar to the way in. The difference was we were exhausted and all wet by water and our own sweat. Hiking on the same route, we reached to Ho Chi Minh trail by the sun set its last light. The third adventure to Son Doong was completed successfully and luckily. Our Son Doong exploration was just a trial and Quang Binh province will do more research to do adventure tours to Son Doong possibly starting since mid of 2014.

Why You Need to Travel Vietnam

If you only have time to explore one country in Southeast Asia, choose VIETNAM!

Let’s admit it, when it comes to travel, Vietnam gets a bit of a bad rep. Before coming here all I heard were stories of travel scams, robberies, aggressive touts, and warnings that I’d be treated like a walking dollar sign. I was beginning to wonder whether I even wanted to spend a full month in this country, but 31 days later as my Vietnamese visa is about to expire, I am sad to leave Vietnam behind.

I’ll admit I’m relatively new to Southeast Asia, and have only covered three countries in the past three months, but Vietnam has left the strongest impression on me by far.

So what makes Vietnam so special?

Travel Vietnam
Friendly Local People
The people are warm, kind, and love to laugh and smile. It is in this country where I have met some of the most caring locals.

When I was sick in Hoi An, it was the woman who runs the Green Moss restaurant who took it upon herself to get me all better. She prepared ginger tea with honey for me, gifted me with a mint balm to rub on my neck and my chest, urged me to wear a scarf to bed, and then checked up on me daily whenever she saw me cycling around town or eating at her restaurant.

In Vietnam people have helped me when I looked lost, locals I met on a train have offered to show me around their hometowns (for free! Further proof that I’m not just a walking ATM), and business owners have been courteous to me even when I didn’t eat at their restaurant or didn’t take their tour.

Vietnam has been an explosion of flavours! Most dinners Sam and I have eaten in this country have been silent because we’ve both been gorging on local delicacies like the food in front of our plates is about to disappear. We’ve been known to order four different dishes in one go because there’s just so much new food to sample.

Whether I was learning to cook Vietnamese food in a dim lit kitchen with no ventilation (picture beads of sweat running down my back and hopefully not onto my food), or enjoying a meal at a local farm in the outskirts of Hoi An, the food was spectacular.

Some of my favourite dishes in this country have been bánh xèo (a rice flour pancake stuffed with pork, shrimp, onions and bean sprouts) and fresh spring rolls. Fresh, flavourful, healthy, filling – what else do you need in a meal?

Kayaking Halong Bay
Halong Bay
Then there is the diversity that comes with travelling in such a big country. I can guarantee that Vietnam will not bore you with its possibilities!

Want to travel down the banks of the Mekong Delta and experience the chaos of vendors at work in a floating market? Do you want to get lost in Saigon’s back alleys as you go in search of the best pho? How about getting clothes custom made in Hoi An? Or can I interest you with kayaking Ha Long Bay .You could also spend your time in Hanoi drinking bia hoi at a little street side bar equipped with plastic children’s furniture? Or if you’re feeling a bit more culturally inclined, go for a hill trekking Sapa where you can do a home stay with the ethnic tribes that call this place home?