I thought that between us we had done our homework however, when travelling in a country as vast as Vietnam I think it may be impossible not to overlook something …we nearly overlooked the largest cave in the world.
In our defence Hang Sơn Đoòng is quite well hidden in the jungle of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, and was only confirmed “the largest cave in the world” in 2009.
While we couldn’t afford $3,000 each to join the 5 day trek through Hang Sơn Đoòng, our budget stretched quite happily to a one day trek through the world’s longest dry cave, Hang Thien Duong (Paradise Cave), which would take us 7km into the 31km long (and not really very dry) cave.
Thien Duong cave was discovered by Ho Khanh, a local man who was searching for Agarwood in the jungle when he stumbled upon the entrance to the cave.
I recommend you Google Agarwood and it’s uses, Ho Khanh could have been a very wealthy man if he’d found what he was looking for. On the subject of finding things in the jungle, best not to try unless you’ve got a lot of time on your hands.
The original route of the Ho Chi Minh Trail has been reclaimed by the jungle which carpets all but the sheerest cliff face or the occasional towering tree. During the American war, the Vietcong fed false intelligence to the Americans to trick them into bombing sections of the trail to clear new supply routes. They even tricked them into bombing rocky outcrops to create gravel to pave sections of the route.
I used to go potholing in my youth and I still jump at the opportunity to scramble into a cold muddy dark space several hundred meters under ground. Gez is not so keen, stating that being trapped in a small muddy hole in the pitch dark hundreds of meters underground is not his idea of fun.
This place was really not like that at all.
Apart from the bit that was exactly like that but we don’t need to talk about that bit.