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Wonders of the World - Caves at Hang Son Doong, Vietnam

Updated on July 2, 2011
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Sam was a Vietnam soldier, a writer of books and articles, an illustrator and a graphic artist. He also plays the piano and writes poetry.

Author's painting of one section of the caves
Author's painting of one section of the caves

I’ve been to Vietnam, and I investigated some of their tunnels. You know; the tunnels made by the Viet Cong? Some were very impressive, and I was told I hadn’t seen a hundredth part of those labyrinthic wonders. The VC were reported to have great underground caverns where they held meetings, ate in large dining rooms, and planned their strategies against the South Vietnam Regime, and the homesteading U.S. troops. Back then, I wondered where they found the time and energy to do all that. Later, I discovered they used natural caves some of the time. Perhaps those natural caves are what gave them the inspiration to build the other tunnels that I investigated.

I’ve seen diagrams of some of extensive tunnels and caverns used by the VC, but now that I’ve seen photographs of the caves at Hang Son Doong, they are but a whisper in comparison.

These caves - located in the Quang Binh province - were discovered originally in 1991 by a Vietnamese man called Ho Khanh. But he said nobody ever entered it, because according to him, it emitted a terrible noise and wind, from a large underground river. In 2009, A British and Vietnamese Expedition tuned out the noise and wind factor, and for the first time in history, mankind penetrated into the amazing interiors of Son Doong.

The cave pictured above is said to be able to fit a 40-story skyscraper. Do you see the little yellow dot in the picture? That’s a man standing there.

The caves are big because of several reasons: The land grew in height when the tectonic plates of India and Eurasia collided and pushed each other upwards about 45 million years ago. This part of Vietnam happens to be a big chunk of soft limestone. Two to five million years ago, a healthy stream of warm water found a fault under the rock, and carved out the caves. It is said the warm water helped. Vietnam is right on the equator, and it’s like living in an oven during the summer. I’m not exaggerating! Well, maybe a little. When I got off the plane my first day there, it felt like someone had wrapped a hot blanket around me. So it is respectably hot in Vietnam.

To see more of Hang Son Doong, and to get an idea of the amazing expanse of those caves, click here:

To share the thrill of its discovery, you can go here:

After reading the story of the men who came upon its wonders, I imagined myself being there. Had it been me, I probably would have fell to my knees and wept.

The cave is more than 2.5 miles long (to date), 300 feet wide in some places, and its highest ceiling is over 600 feet from the cave floor. In metrics, the length would be 6.5 kilometers, and the height would be about 200 meters.

It would be a nice closure for me to return to Vietnam some day, and see such beauty, now that I know I would be much safer than when I was there last time.

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    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 

      7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Wow! That first picture amazed me when you pointed out the little yellow dot. I had no idea that caves could be that huge. If they're all that big, I want to go there - smaller caves bore me and claustrophobia gets to me.

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