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Caving  (A Vietnamese perspective)

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I was luckily to take part in a British Caving Expedition Group two times by introduced of my friend to Prof Pham Quang My. The expedition in general and caving information come to me only via movies and televisions. My friends also did not believe that I would be able to joint because as same as my thinking, the expedition requires a lots of factors as health, experiences, special equipment, and the most importance is knowledge of expedition and in severe conditions that normal people can not do. But I confident in my capabilities and my experiences of my trips in the past with friends when I was a students and in my childhood.
The wonderful of nature makes a strong impression on you when you stay in it. When I was a child, I used to go in woos to fetch firewood, wood, bamboo or bamboo sprouts, but longest I’d got about 10-15km only. And caves, during a schoolboy, by using torch made from a bamboo pipe with oil full filled and cloth or some rubber tyres, we then had got some adequate expeditions and our faces, eyes, noses stuck with oil smoke. Growing up, in some tours, I was visited some caves which were opened for tourism, they are excellent caves but too safe and much changed by human with many equipment then it is not so much impression. Since, I though our nature remain only that, the wonderful, imposing, and uncanny things as in Discovery are some where but not here. I was false when though that around here was nothing to explore, everything had been discovered. I have just recognized that everything is still there and the uncanny things still available for me after caving trips.
The expedition is not complicated and extraordinary as I thought, Yet normal people with normal and simple tools and equipment, perhaps professional and reasonable using. The most importance thing is the purpose of expedition. With children as I before was by curious, go after to the caves, grow up, the cave is only one stop in a tourism trip. With Caving expedition group as Howard answer in an interview of VOV and VTV, caving is a sport as you play football, other plays tennis or climbing v.v. and he likes caving expedition. Of cause data and information from caving expeditions achieved are not only sport but also very helpful. With them, cave expedition is a hobby, they spend a lots time, money, and efforts for it.
Preparation for the trip looks simple. Foods are dry, compressed, and sweet types, which would able to give high and fast energy as chocolate and more important is it has light weight, small size in order to carry enough for long trips. For drinking water, possibly orange flour and a small bottle of special liquid (it looks like permanganate or Iodic?), the water is nature water we got in the way and drip three drops special liquid in and wait about 5 minutes for disinfection to drink. Due to not bring much water then reduce weight for other things. Sleeping equipment, it is not like Vietnamese used to use hammock, they use personal sleeping bag with air-bed or spongy-bed and small, light sleeping camp. The last is main equipment for the trip, it is also heaviest therefore it needs to be specified whether destination needs to use or not to bring as GPS, ruler tapes, angle measure units, ropes, rope ladders, climbing equipment, wet-suits, light, helmets... together with spirit and strength enough for long trips through jungles, climbing up mountainous tens of km. Due to didn’t know what needed for expedition so I brought many things as a Vietnamese soldier with hummock, raincoat, dry provisions, leech boot... these things made my bag very heavy then almost of them were left in hotel before start. Howard group had prepared enough spare equipment for accompanies as us. Howard group usually has 10 to 15 people, additional 4 drivers for 4 jeeps and 2 people from university go with them in turn about 10 days. I am one of that two people. So that, our group has 16 to 20 people. All expenses were born by Howard group.
In two trips with them, I have been many places, many caves, jungles in mountainous, many history vestiges... we recognized that, the most difficulty in our trip was unexpected, it was procedures, permission papers to arrive expedition places. Because some caves are too close the border, military zones, or in restricted areas, it’s too sensitive. Overcome that difficulty, I have achieved a lots of new knowledge that is not easy to everyone. I knew in the part, geologists, soldiers used to have many expedition trips, or during Vietnam wars, the military used to camp inside. But that were their duties, they had not got condition and time to enjoy or to share what they got. On the contrary, as said above, with us caving is a sport, to discover nature, enjoy particularly interesting of the Creator.
The best time for caving usually in dry season, rivers, streams are dry too and rarely rain, it is an advantage for going in jungle and safe in cave. The cave in Vietnam are very huge, large, high and long. In the cave, stalactites very beautiful and imposing. Inside of many caves is over 200m width, 100m high, its entrance is thousands square meter. There is a cave the main passage keeps very huge up to 600 meter long. I have been Lang son, Cao bang, and Quang binh provinces, in fact, many caves have been known and explored for using by geologists and soldiers but the data of the cave is very simple or only outside. Some caves, the data were collected by English, Belgium, France and Italian explorers but there were many caves still no one come in due to when we was there, the stalactite still remain hanging along the passage very beautiful and very delicate.
Going with them, I could recognize the developing potential of many tourism types for Vietnam is very big. Before reached the cave, some places we had to rent local guides to pass over hills, mountains, through jungle from 4, 5 hours to whole of a day and many minority villages, imposing cliffs of limestone are destinations to attract people for adventure tourism and ecological tourism. Furthermore, on the way in the jungle still remain the trail vestiges of Vietnamese army during war as insulators of military communication are hanging on the trees... the data and information of expedition group are very helpfully for local people, give them a chance to develop local economic. Quang binh is one of successful province in developing Phong nha Ke bang become a tourism area and change the way of living for local people from forest exploit to tourism services, they give thousand jobs for local people.
I had got a chance to visit some caves in Britain, take part in some popular sport activities there as walking, cycling, climbing, sailing, ... these sport subjects are potential in Vietnam. The cave in Britain is not so impression on me, it is not beautiful, not large as in Vietnam but English people they show consideration for what they have and setup reasonable for tourism. Many footpaths are the same, it is better than Vietnam only the weather, the footpaths on the top hills of mountainous, limestone mountains... but there is no forest, on the top with a good day, we could have very beautiful views but it is less hazardous. Famous Cliffs for climbing over hundreds years are not challenge, nice and monumental as in Northern of Vietnam or many places in Halong bay. It’s possibly by living and social custom not suitable for develop such sports and tourism types for Vietnamese, but we are still able to organize and attract foreigners. Meanwhile, the most important thing when we are still strength enough to develop, we have to take care, maintain and protect our nature instead of damage it to serve the present. Thanks to trips as of Howard group’s trips, many provinces have changed there mind in what nature they have and the way they treat to nature. They have better behave with there resources.
 

Dang Van Phuc

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