The obscured entrance to the inner sanctuary of Tu Duc’s tomb outside of Hue, Vietnam.
On our first day in Sa Pa, it was so foggy you couldn’t see five feet in front of you. As a result, we decided that it wouldn’t be the best weather for hiking in the surrounding area… so we found a small bar full of people who had reached a similar conclusion and we spent the day enjoying the local beers.
The next day we woke up to find pretty much the same thing. But, it was our last day in the area so we decided that we should find a guide and check out the terraces that make Sa Pa famous. Luckily, as we descended into the valley we dropped under the clouds and could take in our surroundings. I still don’t have many photos from the day as there was still plenty of fog about. Here you can see some of the local water buffalo grazing on the terraces.
So, the lights came on inside the military hospital I started telling you about yesterday, and we went from being in a creepy dark hallway to standing in the middle of a horror movie. At this point you become very aware of the fact that you’re deep underground, inside a mountain, surrounded by nothing but bare concrete and a knowledge that the rooms coming off it were filled with wounded Viet Cong soldiers.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that my travel companion was a nurse, who casually took guesses at what each room was used for. This started as the lights came on when she decided that the two rooms in front of us were likely used for triage. This reached a peek when we entered a room with stone counters and drainage that she guessed was probably the morgue. The last room was a large hall, with bare cave walls and roof that led to a heavy locked metal door. I never found out what was on the other side…
Getting to this rather creepy door was an adventure in itself. I’ve told you about the 8 hour boat ride, with no food, we were tricked into to reach the island. To get to this spot, we needed to rent a motorbike. It wasn’t long before we realized that our singular mode of transport was running on fumes, but we’d been assured that there was a gas station on the way out of town. We set off, focused on the right side of the road where the gas station was promised. This resulted in a traumatic moment for my pillion passenger who suddenly gasped. She’d had just laid eyes on a dog being butchered, at the market, by the side of the road. Taken aback by this discovery, our concentration on fuel diminished and soon signs of civilization were beginning to die out.
At this point, we decided we’d be better off running out of gas in the town than in the jungle so we turned back. At this point, we found the gas station quickly, on the opposite side of the street from where we were told it would be. Once we were fueled up, we set off into the wilderness and before we knew it, we had spotted the entrance to the cave that housed the Vietnam War era military hospital used by the Viet Cong.
Across the street was an attentive attendant prepared to charge us for using their parking lot. He was a short stout older man, wearing an old military style jacket. After experience visiting the Mausoleums outside Hue, we were expecting an aggressive pushy greeting. Instead, we were greeted with a smile and a laugh as he asked if we were going to visit the cave. We said yes and he told us we could either pay for parking or come in for a coffee and park for free. This was perfect as I had already spotted the opportunity for delicious Vietnamese Coffee and was going to sit down anyway. We drank our coffee and the same man came over to say we should go up to the cave as a tour-guide was going up and they would turn on the lights. He wanted us to get the chance to see it in the dark, and then get to see it with the lights on.
So, there we were, standing at this creepy metal door, peering into the darkness. We stepped in and waited for a moment for our eyes to adjust. They didn’t, but we pressed on anyway. Soon enough the lights came on, but it was still a pretty creepy place. If you come back tomorrow you can see what it looks like on the inside.
I’ve spent some time this weekend working on photos from inside the Paradise Cave in Vietnam’s Phtong Nha national park. In doing so I’ve realized just how long it’s taking me to get through all my photos from Vietnam. I was there in 2014!
I like the stalagmite in the foreground, it looks like a melted candle.