When I first decided to go to Vietnam, impulsively, I was vaguely aware that there were caves there. Big caves.
I don’t really like caves. When you’re mildly claustrophobic, caves are not your thing. Being on top of mountains is much more enjoyable then being in a cold dark cave where access to things I like, such as sunshine and oxygen, are not as convenient.
But on to Phong Nha Ke Bang park we went. Home to some big caves. The biggest actually. Son Doong was discovered by British explorers in 2009, with its largest cavern being over 3 miles long and 600 ft tall. There are stalagmites the size of buildings and cave pearls the size of baseballs. Its reported to be one of the most beautiful and other-worldy places on our planet. Going there would of course, be amazing but its also about $3000 to do that expedition, so maybe someday. This is a link to 54 amazing photos of the cave though. Phong Nha park itself was only declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003 and has only been open to the public for a few years.
My friend and I hired drivers to take us out to the caves for a day. Riding around on motor bikes was the best way to see the park. Big brown cows would plod through the middle of the road, kids ran out to great us, we were 50KM for Laos, and the scenery was thick and green. It was all so much more exciting since we knew beneath our feet lay entire worlds, possibly some still undiscovered.
Dark cave was an experience unlike anything else. I have exactly zero pictures of it, since this was not a camera friendly thing. Also bear in mind that we were told nothing about what would happen. When we got to cave entrance they told us to only wear our swimsuits and to put on a harness, life-jacket, helmet, and headlamp.
We started by ziplining across the river, and then swimming into a massive cave. We were sent by our guide down an increasingly narrow corridor. It was all damp and muddy and we all got covered, which wasn’t really a problem since it led into a small room with clay-like mud that we all splashed around in and giggled like little kids. After that we left the cavern, slid down a mudslide into the river where we rinsed off.
From there we swam down a river further into the cave. tHe only light came from our headlamps and it was like being in an underground cathedral. We reached land and stared off into the abyss of the cave that seemed like it would keep going forever. I threw rocks to see how far away they would sound. It was so silent that none of us spoke, not wanting to interrupt it. Making our way back up the river, we all turned off our headlamps and just floated in the darkness. The surrealism of the moment was overwhelming, to be underground, floating in a river inside a massive cave, in the darkest dark I’ve ever seen.
In that moment I realized that this is my life. I get to do some amazing things and that no matter where I go in life, I’ll always have this memory where I was somewhere so unexpected and so beautiful.
Have you ever had a moment like that? Where you were just shocked and surprised to find yourself where you were? Let me know in the comments. And as always you’re welcome to follow along on Twitter, Bloglovin, and Instagram