Halong Bay is world famous for its
many beautiful caves which were mostly created in Pleistocene epoch. Sung
Sot Cave - Sudden Surprise Cave (means Amazing in Vietnamese) - is on Bo
Hon Island, and is one of the finest and widest of the many limestone grottos
of Ha Long Bay.
After docking at the cave we
climbed 25m of steep, tree-lined rock stairs to the mouth of the grotto.
We entered the outer chamber known as the "waiting room" where our guide
shared a bit of history of the cave. He explained the legend associated
with the stone in the shape of a horse and a long sword next to the entrance.
We also learned that the Viet Cong hid here during their war with the South
and USA. The lighting in the cave dates from 1999 when it was installed
by the Chinese.
Climbing more rock stairs through
narrow openings we entered the huge main chambers filled with the usual
karst cavern features of stalactites, stalagmites, columns - all
well lit with lights that brought out many colours and shapes. The lighting
and shadows and formations suggested a variety of images and with a few
hints from the guides visitors started to see people, plants, animals and
mythical creatures in varying poses. The name Sudden Surprise Cave is due
to the amazed reaction of French explorers in 1901 and more recent visitors
when they first visited this 30 m cavern and also when they saw a rock
shaped like a huge erect penis -- now lit by a red spotlight
Over the years we've visited
numerous other famous caverns: Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, Carlsbad Caverns
in New Mexico, etc., so it was a treat to add this visit to our list.
We exited to a platform overlooking
the bay for a group photo and passed by a souvenir shop and the long descent
down to the pier area were there were many floating market boats. At the
bottom by the pier was a woman working her "fish farm" between the walkway
and the side of the hill. She had pools with different kinds of fish, oysters,
and shrimp. They were huge! We're not sure whether is was for show or actually
for home / restaurant use. Then it was time back on board the junk for
a cool shower followed by another mid-day feast! They said a light lunch,
but again, about five courses of deliciousness. Vietnam was certainly living
up to her reputation as the place for delicious food!
We packed for our return to shore
and trip back to Hanoi to catch an overnight train to Hue.