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Hang Doi (Bat Cave)

During our expedition through Thanh Hoa many local people kept talking about a cave with many fish. Finally in the beautiful Cam Thuy province we were able to visit this cave and hopefully find other caves in the area. Hang Suon Ca (Fish River Cave) is aptly named and is certainly a big tourist attraction for the Vietnamese. The story goes that in the past some local people ate one of the large Carp fishes that live near the entrance to the cave and he died. Thus from then no one would eat any fish and hence there numbers dramatically increased. When we drove towards this cave we were met by numerous stalls all selling tacky trinkets and pictures of the river full of these huge Carp. Luckily they also sold cold refreshing drinks before our adventure in the cave. From the stalls we walked down to the small river and we were amazed to see a river full of huge Carp which went into a frenzy when a lump of food was dropped in the river. Tourists and we alike took the opportunity to take a few photos of this unusual site. Anywhere else in Vietnam fish have a low life expectancy but certainly not here.

The show cave Hang Suon Ca is an unusual show cave but by Vietnamese standards is fairly typical. We followed local people some very old and some babies through an intricate cave terribly lit by coloured lights. Climbing up and down stal which was slippy was no problem for the old dears in flip flops and the tourists were all having a great time. We were sweating and falling over and because we decided to survey the cave were having great difficulties in passing survey details on to the scriber due to the incredible noise from the Vietnamese who as usual were very interested in what we were doing dressed in all fancy caving gear whilst they carefully passed through the cave in their Sunday best clothes. They emerged in pristine condition whilst we as usual were filthy and hot and sweaty.

At the exit to the cave we were told of 2 other caves unexplored. One cave supposedly had the main river water and the other was a dry cave full of bats. Deb, Sweeny and I drew the short straw and elected to visit the Bat Cave Hang Doi. The entrance is very near the exit of Hang Suon Ca and is large with a width of 15m and dropping steeply into a large chamber with much stal. The climb down into the chamber is very tricky mainly due to the abundance of bat shit everywhere as well as green slime on every rock due to daylight penetrating into this chamber. Finally we made the base of the chamber into a very dry and filthy base with hundreds of bats shitting on us from high above. To add to the wonderful conditions thousands of flies seemed to have fancied a caving trip so we were surrounded by these buggers without any way of killing them. The good old days of carbide gave some satisfaction when they leapt into the flame. The only way off this foul chamber was a climb up a bat shit slope into what appeared to be into a good looking passage. Much too our surprise this passage soon left the horrors of the entrance chamber and a fine old passage continued in style. Mainly over 10m high and 10m wide this splendid passage continued for 400m to a calcite choke.

We photographed this clean and well decorated passage and had a good check of the final end. Sweeny discovered a nest of rats full of little ratlets in the final alcove but no way on was obvious. We retreated back through Hang Suon and met the other team who had trekked through jungle and over many cols to be shown a boulder choke and no obvious river cave.

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