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Vietnam’s Son Doong Cave, already world’s largest, may be bigger than thought

Caving experts are preparing to dive an unexplored river passage inside Son Doong Cave, with the hope of finding a connection to a nearby river cave, thereby proving their hypothesis that the world’s largest natural cave is even much bigger than previously thought.

A photo taken inside Son Doong Cave. Photo: Ryan Deboodt

A photo taken inside Son Doong Cave. Photo: Ryan Deboodt

Oxalis Adventure Tours, which organizes commercial tours to Son Doong, is working with members of the British Cave Research Association (BCRA) to prepare an expedition to explore an 600-meter underwater passage discovered inside the massive cave in the central province of Quang Binh.

It is expected that this smaller passage will connect to nearby Thung Cave, which was explored back in 1994 and which also has a great river running through the cave, according to a press release.

“When we discovered Son Doong Cave in 2009 and completed its survey in 2010, we realized that the final end of the river in the cave was just 600 meters in a straight line from the end of Thung Cave,” said Howard Limbert, a member of the British Cave Research Association and technical director with Oxalis.

The team spent eight years considering different methods to determine where this passage leads, and eventually decided that only with a dive could they truly explore and map this section of the cave, as a physical connection is the best way to prove these two caves are one.

A map of the underwater passage inside Son Doong Cave where caving experts plan to explore in April 2019. Graphic: Tuoi Tre

A map of the underwater passage inside Son Doong Cave where caving experts plan to explore in April 2019. Graphic: Tuoi Tre

The date of the dive has been confirmed for early April 2019, when river conditions are expected to be ideal, Oxalis announced.

“It will not be easy as it is a big river in a relatively small passage and hence the current will be strong,” Limbert commented on the difficulty of the dive.

The team has invited four experienced British cave divers, Rick Stanton, John Volanthen, Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewell, to join them in the expedition.

The four divers all played critical roles in the high-profile rescue operation of 12 junior football players and their coach from Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand in July.

This diving team will also be joined by caving expert Martin Holroyd, who works as safety guide on current Son Doong Cave tourist expeditions organized by Oxalis.

A support crew including ten well-trained local porters will also join the trek and assist in carrying additional oxygen tanks, a compressor, and all equipment necessary to establish a mini-base camp inside Son Doong Cave.

The crew has worked with the BCRA team over the past 10-15 years exploring caves in the region, Oxalis said.

Porters work inside Son Doong Cave. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Porters work inside Son Doong Cave. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“Being the best divers in the world we really think they can be successful in joining these two caves hence making Son Doong Cave even bigger than before,” Limbert added.

The present length of Son Doong Cave is nine kilometers, with an average passage size of 67.2 meters and an overall volume of 38.8 million cubic meters.

Meanwhile, Thung Cave currently stretches 3.3 kilometers in length with a smaller average passage size of 22 meters and an overall volume of 1.6 million cubic meters.

Therefore, the total volume of the cave if connected by this passage would be over 40.4 million cubic meters in addition to the connection passage, according to the caving team.

While Son Doong is already the largest natural cave in size, it currently ranks second when it comes to overall volume of the entire cave system, with Clearwater Cave in Malaysia being first with 39.5 million cubic meters in volume, according to Limbert.

If the upcoming expedition is successful, Son Doong Cave will become the largest cave in the world by both its size and volume, he added.

According to an Oxalis announcement, participants of the expedition are all caving enthusiasts who “respect and admire these underground marvels of nature.”

Strict guidelines will be followed to ensure the ecosystem of the cave is maintained and formations are not damaged in any way, the company added.

Source: Tuan Son / Tuoi Tre News

Central Highlands

November, the best time to visit these awesome Vietnamese destinations

As chilly November arrives it is the best time to pay a visit to these places.Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Ha Giang Province nestles in the mountains of northern Vietnam. It is home to ethnic minorities like the H’Mong, Thai and others. Visitors to the province can witness exotic local lifestyles.

The wildness of its nature is the captivating feature of Ha Giang. The province attracts many motorbike riders and trekkers every year. Mother Nature has gifted Ha Giang with diverse scenery with mighty rocky mountains, golden rice terraces and, in November, magnificent white and magenta fields of buckwheat flowers.

Buckwheat is among the staple grains of the locals, and is usually cultivated after the summer-fall rice crop every year. Now buckwheat flowers have bloomed all over mountain slopes in Dong Van District.

This year the annual buckwheat flower festival starts on November 10 with cultural activities, traditional games and a buckwheat flower competition.

1,000-year-old capital, Hanoi

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

November may mark the start of winter in many places, but in Hanoi autumn lingers. This is arguably the best time of the year to visit the city, when it wears a whole new façade with the renowned hoa sua (milk flower) and streets gilded with fallen golden leaves and cuisine specialties.

Photo by VnExpress

Photo by VnExpress

In November do not miss a walk through Hanoi’s most romantic streets, Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu and Tran Phu. The hoa sua (milk flower) have bloomed all over these streets, giving off a glorious aroma.

Visitors can also explore the maze of alleys in the old quarter to find autumn specialties like green rice, green rice cake and ragworm, or sit by an open-air café in the cool wind and enjoy a cup of Vietnamese egg coffee.

The ancient citadel of Hue

Photo by Quoc Viet

November heralds autumn in Hue in central Vietnam. Hue typically expects pleasant weather and less rain this month, perfect for tourists to take a trip around the royal citadel and mighty tombs of old kings.

The Hue citadel complex holds in itself the historical legacy of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last imperial rulers of Vietnam. The tombs of the Nguyen kings are situated around Hue’s suburbs, which can be reached by car or motorbike.

The Hue cuisine is not to be missed. Mussels with rice/noodles, Hue beef noodles, steamed rice cake and tapioca dumplings are among the must-try dishes in the city. In the cool weather of autumn, the spicy mussels with rice can warm your stomach, and a bowl of beef noodles can give you a nutritious fix for a whole day of exploration.

Tree marigold in Gia Lai

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai Province is in the Central Highlands and has a tropical highland climate. Tourists should visit the province in the dry season in November or December. This is when the rice terraces on the hill slopes are ripe and marigolds have painted the paths yellow.

Tourists can stay in Pleiku City, the center of Gia Lai. One place to visit is the Gia Lai Museum where cultural and historical relics of the local ethnic groups are preserved.

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

The Chu Dang Ya volcano is a must-visit place for flower lovers since it has the best scenes of blooming tree marigold. The volcano is situated in Chu Dang Ya Commune, Chu Pah District, 30 kilometers to the northeast of Pleiku. Locals can give you directions, so if you are lost do not worry.

Da Lat, the city of dreams

Da Lat City is among the favorite destinations for tourists visiting Vietnam. The rainy season has ended in early November, so it is a good time to visit this city.

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

In Da Lat, you can visit the Valley of Love, Da Lat train station, Golden Valley, and Langbiang Mountain.

Da Lat is also in the Central Highlands, so tourists can expect to see tree marigold here.

The best floral scenes can be found at Da Lat University, Pham Hong Thai Street and the Minh Hoa seminary.

Source: By Minh Quan (VNEXPRESS)

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An Giang

The palm that sweetens life in Mekong Delta province

An Giang residents love the palmyra palm for the sustained supply of toddy, juice and raw sugar that it provides.

Known locally as the thot not, Borassus flabellifer, commonly known as doub palm, palmyra palm, tala palm, toddy palm and even wine palm, this species can be found everywhere in An Giang. The local name is derived from th’not in the Khmer language.

They provide a thirst-quenching drink, toddy, made by collecting the sap of its flowers. The palm sugar made from this also carries a special sweetness. The tall palms also beautifully break the monotony of rice fields in the Mekong Delta province.

A thirst-quencher

The thot not juice is often misunderstood as juice from its fruit. But this is actually sap tapped from its flowers. The juice has a light sweet taste and is often served with some slices of succulent thot not fruit. The drink is said to contain many minerals and vitamins that are good for health. It tastes best served with ice.

The tastiest sap is the one harvested early in the morning. If harvested in the evening the sap will get sour and have a fermented taste, which is turned into toddy, an alcoholic drink. Thot not juice is sold in many sidewalk stalls and markets in An Giang.

Sweetmeats

Thot not plays an important role in An Giang’s dessert scene. It is used as the sweetener in most dishes. The thot not pie, rich and sweet, is a steal at VND15,000 ($0.6) a pack.

To make the pies, the pulp of ripened thot not fruit is ground and the juice extracted. The flesh is then mixed with rice flour and thot not sugar and steamed.

Other snacks made here include sweet soups and jelly.

A sweet gift

Thot not sugar is one of the most famous delicacies of An Giang. It’s extracted from the thot not sap then cooked and hardened into round brown clots. The brown sugar is recommended because it retains the natural and original taste. The whiter version is refined. The sugar is not just used in daily cooking, it is also a popular gift item. Some sugar makers even let you make the sugar yourself.

A photo cover

Photographs taken in An Giang never fail to feature the palms against the rising and setting suns. If you show a Vietnamese person a photograph with these palms, she or he will know that you have been to An Giang.

Source: By Linh Sea, Tuan Hoang (VNEXPRESS)

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Destination

Pristine Nam Du islands offer a quiet getaway

The Nam Du Archipelago in southern Kien Giang Province takes some getting to, but that adds to its quiet, clean charms.

The 21 islands that form the Nam Du Archipelago offer visitors a real break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

It takes a seven-hour drive on a bus from Ho Chi Minh City and a two hour boat ride from Rach Gia City in Kien Giang Province.

The islands can be visited anytime of the year, but it’s best to go between November and May when the sea is quiet (and clean) and tourists can avoid getting seasick.

The archipelago only gets power from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day, so charging devices like phones, computers and flashlights should be done at this time.

Taking a walk along the beaches where there is no power enhances the experience of the island’s beauty.

The lack of many activities in the evening, for instance, makes a fire camp or beach barbecue far more enjoyable.

Cool and windy throughout the year, Nam Du is an ideal holiday destination.

A few resorts and homestays have set up bird stations where pigeons congregate, and watching their comings and goings is a pleasant way to while away the time.

The untouched sandy beaches and crystal blue waters of the sea are the greatest attractions on this archipelago, and one cannot get enough of gazing at this wonder.

And given the number of islands, there is a lot of gazing that can get done. For boat rides of just VND150,000 ($7), people can discover islands like Hon Ngang, Bai Nom and Da Den.

Bungalows by the beach.

At the Ngu beach, most of the people are fishermen, but they can tell you one interesting royal fact. Gia Long (1762-1820), the first Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty – the last Vietnamese dynasty – came here for a vacation.

For those who want to do more than walk on the beach, swimming and diving to see corals under the sea are favored options.

Another activity to engage in apart from long walks on the beach is to rent a bike and cycle/drive around each island. Motorbike rentals cost VND150,000 to 200,000 ($6.5 to 8.5).

Nguyen Oanh, a first time visitor, had no such interest: “Nam Du is so beautiful and pristine. I love the feeling of walking by the beach and listening to the waves.”

Source: Hong Ha(VNEXPRESS)

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