Car-boot Cave Hunting - Hang So Doi (Bowl Cave)

Finding caves in Vietnam requires spending hours scrutinising maps followed by days sweating through the jungle. Alternatively, you can ignore the maps and wait until the Vietnamese have built some roads. Then wander along the side of the road and when the air feels cold walk into the nearest cave entrance.

We avoided the 8 km walk down from Nuoc Nit by flagging down a large empty truck that appeared as we reached the roadside. After setting up a squat in a roadside tin hut whose owners were absent and working on the roads
elsewhere, we set off along a line of culverts under the road. A small sumped resurgence lay behind the second culvert, and behind the next culvert 50 m along from that was a small entrance named by the road builders as Hang
So Dua (Chopstick Cave). Entering this we found 500 m of passage, with muddy rifts and crawls opening out into a pleasant enough streamway which sumped upstream and which we mud-traced downstream a few hours later to the resurgence sump. Culvert 4 had no stream, no draught and no cave. Directly behind Culvert 5, a full 400 m walk from our adopted shack (whose owners had since returned and fortunately invited us to stay), was the
walk-in entrance to Hang So Doi (Bowl Cave). This provided a source of natural air-conditioning for the construction workers who were living in the culvert.

Full team including guide and translator enter to push, survey and photograph. Very pleasant start compared to Chopstick Cave, dry gravel/cobble floor. After low bit, cave opens out to pleasant walking passage with plenty of gour and stal decoration. Deb, Martin and Paul surveying, Chris and Woody scouting, Mr Thach and Mr Du jollying along. After wet-looking side passage, (the main passage) eventually closes to a wet, muddy crawl. Chris braves the cold and squalor in his pants and returns to announce it is still going. Muted enthusiasm. Deb and Chris survey on, whilst the rest begin to capture the splendors on celluloid.
Some amusing asides: "Mr Thach, please don't hit that stal with your hammer while you are the photo model".

"Mr Du, I know you are hard, but would you please wear a helmet if you're in the photo?"

But all progresses smoothly. Near the entrance, half a film later, we bin the photography and
head back to the sharp end. A quick carbide fettle in the wet side passage is interrupted by Deb and Chris returning with the cave having closed down. We survey the wet bit to an inlet sump and pick off the other side passages.

'1185 m, mostly pleasant. Not quite the full jungle experience, but then again, you can't beat a bit of "car-boot caving"'.

Back at the shack our 'jungle' porters told us that while catching fish in a small river on the opposite side of the road, they had discovered a low resurgence cave. We crawled through the ducks only to find rats at the far end 200 m later. The next day, continuing along the road, Mr Du led us up the hillside above Culvert 6 to an enormous fossil remnant of possible past military significance (i.e. a bomb shelter). This turned out to be a through-cave, with the passage only slightly longer than it was high, but spectacular nonetheless. We returned to find Howard, Sweeny, a crate of beer, and a truck, ready for the journey back to Son Trach.

Chris Densham


2012 Report


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