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Hang Son Doong, or “mountain river cave,” is in a remote part of central Vietnam. Hidden in rugged Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park near the border with Laos, the cave is part of a network of 150 or so caves, many still not surveyed, in the Annamite Mountains.  This is very close to a well-known tourist cave that we will visit: Phong Nha Cave World Heritage Site in central Vietnam.  National geographic calls Hang Son Doong  "the world's largest cave", which, although true in many senses, is a bit misleading.  Hang Son Doong is the largest known cave passage, a huge and spectacular tube over a 100 m in diameter (at places even 200 x 150 m) and 4.5 km long.  This passage is not continuously "underground", as the cave roof has collapsed in several places, creating large shafts open to the surface which allow jungle vegetation to grow on the cave floor. The largest cave room (by volume) remains the Sarawak Chamber in Deer Cave (Mulu, Sarawak, Malaysia) which is an unsupported natural chamber 700 m long x 400 m wide and over 70m high.  The longest mapped cave remains Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, with 628 km (390 miles) of passage.

National Geographic videos of the exploration, survey, and science.  Originally shown on the National Geographic TV channel.  There are three 15-minute segments on You Tube:
Segment 1:
Segment 2:
Segment 3:

Drowned tower karst of Ha Long Bay, northern Vietnam.  During the last ice age, so much water was locked up in the continental glaciers that sea level was approximately 130 meters lower than it is at present.  South and east of what today is the border between China and Vietnam, the level of the  China Sea was correspondingly lower and the shoreline was several kilometers farther offshore from its present location.  Karst towers formed, very similar to those seen in the classical karst of SW China (around Guilin and Yangshuo)  rising above an alluvial plain.  As the continental glaciers melted and the  water locked within them flowed back to the oceans, sea-level rose 130 meters and flooded the alluvial plain that surrounded the limestone towers.  We see those in the spectacular landscape around Ha Long Bay, northeastern Vietnam.  The karst towers did not form in the ocean.  Rather, the ocean rose and inundated the base of the towers after they were created. Here are some images from a Vietnam promotion of Ha Long Bay, which we will visit on this tour.  Click on the upper right corners of the text boxes (that urge you to action) to close them.

Article after our 2012 trip to Laos

Article after our 2012 trip to Vietnam

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