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Exploring Caves on Cat Ba

by becca on September 30, 2009

Cat Ba Island is a small island in Halong Bay, off the Northeastern coast of Vietnam. There are a few caves on the island that we took some time to explore one of the five days we were there.

First, Hospital Cave. This served as a secret hospital during the Vietnam (or here, the American) War. They built this 3 story, 17 room complex between 1963-1965 and used it for the following 10 years (thanks, Lonely Planet, for all the info). To get into this cave, we slowed down on our motorbikes when we saw a sign pointing into some bushes on the side of the road. A guy ran out of his house flailing his arms and offering to park our bikes so he could show us around. He took us down a narrow path and up a few flights of stone, cement and then bamboo stairs to the big rusted, bomb-proof door to the cave. We walked through the cave and he knew just enough English to tell us what each room was. I would like to point out to any spaceshippers reading this that there was a ping pong room in this facility. Yes, along with rooms for sleeping, for guards, a huge cave for training, a small pool, an operating room, a washing room and a cafeteria, there was a room solely dedicated to ping pong. In 1965, ping pong made the cut, and here it is (sans table):

Hospital Cave Ping Pong Room

Hospital Cave Ping Pong Room

The next cave, well, we don’t really know what it’s called. No one we spoke to, even the locals, had ever been inside. To tour this one, again we slowed when we saw a sign then five young boys came running and yelling from a house down the hill. We let them jump on the back of our motorbikes to ride down a cement path to the steps leading up to the entrance. After a few minutes of haggling on how much we would pay them to watch our bikes, their father, reeking of whiskey, came to unlock the gate and show us around. Now, I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to have to get on my elbows and crawl through 1.5 foot openings through mud puddles to get through the damn thing. Nate kindly caught my mini melt down and evidence of my claustrophobia on video:

We finally re-emerged from the cave, motorbikes in tact, where we were then faced with the five young boys wanting payment for sitting on our bikes in the middle of nowhere while we were exploring. We ended up giving them each 5000 VND (about 27 cents) for their troubles. And while this was well more than we bargained for, the smiles on their faces were worth it.

Cat Ba kids

Cat Ba kids

To wrap this up, here are some more photos from the experience:

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