When I took this photo in Phong Na, Vietnam, I was precariously balanced on a rickety bamboo bridge. A little farther on we were stood on one, when it suddenly dropped about a half foot, nearly dumping us overboard.
So I got to talking about Vietnam today, which led me to look on my SmugMug page to show some friends a few pictures. Then I realized I had a fair few waiting to be posted.
This photo shows the entrance of Phong Nha Cave. During the Vietnam (or American, depending on who you ask) War this cave was employed as a Viet Cong military base.
To get to this cave we first had to wander to the river bank in town where we found a number of Dragon Boats lined up waiting to give tours. They gestured that we needed to go to a ticket booth to pay. Once we were paid up we set up. Most people wait to group together to save money, the dragon boats can sit at least a dozen people. It was late in the day and we didn’t see anyone around so we got straight on.
Our drivers were an older couple who communicated to us entirely in gestures. You can see them in this previous post.
It’s about a half hour boat ride up the river, through the jungle covered Karst formations, past a fishing village and numerous water buffalo tied up on farmland along the banks.
Around a bend we came to the entrance to the cave, a low slit in the mountainside. The rocks above were scarred by artillery as the US army attempted to seal the cave. It’s amazing that the rock face held together.
Our boat ride continued inside, through narrow passageways and into large chambers full of stalagmites. When we reached the furthest point of our journey our pilots carefully turned the 30 foot long boat around in a space that only seemed 20 feet wide. They did this mostly by using their hands to push off the cave walls.
From there we were dropped on a beach inside the cave that served as a landing point for injured Viet Cong soldiers. We walked back out through the rock formations. Just before walking back outside to board our waiting boat I stopped to take this picture.
It was a treacherous walk on a rainy afternoon to Nuoc Moc’s swimming hole, but our stomachs were full. We’d arrived at the nature walk of Nuoc Moc, between the Dark Cave and Paradise Cave, in the stunning Karst mountains of Phong Nha Ke Bang, to discover a typically gracious Vietnamese woman who offered us lunch. We agreed and were treated to a plate of steamed broken rice topped with fried chicken, tofu, delicious string beans, and a fried egg. It’s a simple meal, but after liberal application of soy sauce and chili, it was delicious.
With full stomach’s, we accepted that the light drizzle was not going to let up. We donned our rain gear, waterproofed our bags and set off to visit the Nuoc Moc swimming hole. To get there, you have to cross a number of fast flowing rivers via rickety bamboo bridges like the one you can see below. The rain made them slippery, but they seemed sturdy enough that if you wound up in the water it would be entirely due to operator error.
On the way back I asked my travel buddy to take a picture as I carried my gear across. She walked up to where I stood on the bridge to take my Iphone, photo mode ready. However, you’ll notice there’s no picture of me tentatively carrying my gear across a slippery, bamboo bridge. That’s because, when she reached me, the bridge decided to drop what felt like meters, but was probably more like inches. This warning was well heeded and, after freezing in shock briefly, we removed ourselves from the structure at great haste.