Halong Bay Side Step to Dau Go Cave

Apart from the thousands of limestone karst and small isles dotting the whole of Halong Bay, there are small islands that also provides additional attraction like the Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stakes Cave). According to a local story, while planning a counter attack against their Mongolian enemies in 1288, the men of General Tran Hung Dao hid an enormous number of wooden stakes inside this cave. The wooden stakes were then streamed into the Bach Dang River to serve as obstacles against the attacking Mongols. It was a risky plan that tricked the enemy, as the men of Kublai Khan got entangled with the wooden stakes while crossing through the treacherous river bed, drowning a number of Mongolian warriors. 

Dau Go Cave in Halong Bay Vietnam

Dau Go is a limestone islet 8 kilometers south of Bai Chay. The mouth of the cave is located more than 180 meters above sea level, visitors aboard the iconic Halong Bay junk boats can view it from afar. At first, I wasn't really keen on this side trip as I just wanted to lounge around the rooftop of our boat and enjoy the cold winds and amazing scenery around Halong Bay. But since I am a history junkie, listening to our guide Mr. Nguyen narrate the interesting history of the cave, got me a bit excited. 

Dau Go Cave

Inside the cave are a series of man-made structures like the concrete stairs, hand railings, lighting system and even a centralized air-conditioned system. It doesn't feel like being in a cave, I told myself. A flight of hundred steps greets visitors leading to the entrance. As we went deeper into the cave, we passed by different chambers with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites formations, each one coming to its own unique shape as sculptured by thousand years of kart process.  Similar to previous caves I've been to, many of the formations can be easily imagined to resemble some human and animal figures.

Referred to in the late 19th century as  Grotte des Merveilles (a site of many marvels), Dau Go Cave has three chambers where spots of sunlight emanating from holes in the ceiling provides a stellar composition of lighting.  Combining it with the man-made colored illumination, the vibe resembles a club scene without the blasting DJ music. 

The visitors trail takes you to an encircled path leading to a small pool of water near the third chamber. Our guide Nguyen proudly told us that, Emperor Khai Dinh (12th Emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty in Vietnam) came to visit the grotto in 1917. See, I love it when you got a guide who knows a lot about the history of the place you are visiting. While I was clueless at the stories he was telling us back then, I get to Google a lot of it when I got back home and that is where the educational part of traveling comes in.

Kara Santos in Dau Go Cave

I took mostly blurred images inside, but the roughness of the details, textures and different layers of the stalactite and stalagmite present a stunning visual choreography. It also doesn't help when your junk boat-mates are composed of four couples and I am the only solo-flight on the group, so I always find myself as the designated "can you take a nice picture of us two" guy.

It was alright though, I became the favorite photographer of the Spanish couple who barely speaks English, they would just say "cuse me Mork" and signal their hand to take a picture and when it was my turn to see a nice spot to have my picture taken, they were all busy planting a kiss to each other. Downer! next time, I plan to bring a girlfriend here. Promise.

We stayed inside about an hour, it was an easy stroll inside and kinda reminds me of our own Callao Cave in Tuguegarao minus the man made lighting system. Over-all it was a nice side trip to squeeze into our whole day of sailing around Halong Bay.

Halong Bay is 3 hours away by land from Hanoi. Cebu Pacific Air flies thrice a week to Hanoi from Manila.
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