Night kayaking inside Vietnam cave

 Quang Binh Province is offering a new adventure that is bound to thrill and enthrall - kayaking at night inside Phong Nha Cave with flashlights and special equipment.

The Phong Nha Cave is part of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park which was recognized by UNESCO as a global heritage site in 2003.

At 7,729 meters, Phong Nha is among the world’s longest caves. It contains 14 grottoes, as well as a 13,969-meter long underground river, which opened for tourism activities in 1990.

Since early January, the Phong Nha Tourism Center has launched a night kayaking tour exploring the Phong Nha and Bi Ky caves and enjoying local cuisine.

Hoang Trung Thanh, deputy sales manager of the center, said this new product is expected to boost the local tourism industry after over two years of being furloughed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before entering the cave, visitors are equipped with life jackets and helmets. They are asked to follow tour guides' instructions to ensure safety and conservation of the cave. Visitors can kayak on their own to explore the cave.

The first part of the tour allows tourists to visit the Phong Nha Cave, famous for its rock formations that have been given names like the Lion, Unicorn, Kneeling Elephant and The Buddha.

Tourist Ho Thi Vien (R) said she has visited the Phong Nha Cave many times, but this was the first time she was kayaking inside it at night.

"Kayaking by myself gives me the freedom to observe first hand, at my own pace, the stalactites and mysterious crannies of the cave. That makes it a very interesting tour."

Around 1,200 meters along the river inside the cave, visitors can see a large ancient jar, believed to originate from the time of the Cham civilization. The jar, covered with mud, is stuck in the hollows of the cave wall.

The jar, discovered early 2013, has a height of 65 cm. According to the Quang Binh Museum, there is nothing inside the jar, which has a ceramic coating on the outside.

Going past the ancient jar, visitors can anchor their kayaks on a sandy beach and explore the Bi Ky Grotto.

The Bi Ky Grotto has large stalactite columns, connecting from the ceiling to the cave floor. This is the first time that the grotto has been opened to tourists.

Inside the Bi Ky grotto, there are 97 ancient Cham characters whose time and meaning are yet to be deciphered. These inscriptions were discovered by the French 120 years ago. Some studies indicate that these characters were inscribed more than a thousand years ago. The writing is still sharp and has not faded or tarnished.

In addition to the Cham characters, the grotto has the history of being used by soldiers as a place to hide from bombs and bullets, and to save and treat wounded soldiers during wartime.

Phong Nha has been voted by international experts as one of the most wonderful caves in the world for a number of reasons: longest underground river; most beautiful underground lake; highest and widest entrance; picturesque widest dry cave, sandbank and reef; spectacular stalactites and stalagmites; and long water grottos.

After the tour ends at nightfall, on the wide sands in front of Phong Nha Cave, visitors can enjoy barbecued local specialties including chicken, shrimp, grilled pork, boiled corn and rice dumpling cakes.

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