When we arrived at Ben En National Park and realized that we could not go into the caves within the park, I was pretty bummed. I wanted to see a Vietnamese cave! After our boat tour, we were looking at the map of the park, and I noticed a cave symbol outside of the park that did not seem to be part of any tour. We asked the boat tour guy who spoke English about the cave. He said that we could see it, but we needed someone to open the gate, because the cave is locked up. Then, he offered to open up the cave for us. Yay! He hopped on his motor bike and our driver followed him out of the national park to a side road about 5 minutes away. Honestly, I have no idea where the cave was located on a map, or I would attach it!
Our driver took us down a one lane rutted dirt road to a dead end with a house and chickens roaming around. A little further down the road was a big metal locked gate that the tour guide opened for us. He was trying to explain to us, with a limited English vocabulary, the history of the cave, but it took us a little while to figure out exactly what he was talking about. Leading up to the cave, the walkway was surrounded by beautiful, still ponds, and the interesting shape of the Vietnamese hills in the background.
When we approached the gate, I still did not see the cave. Our guide and driver led us under a series of arches covered in vegetation, and all of the sudden, we were in a huge cavern. At first, I thought that the guide was explaining that something was manufactured in this cave. Then, Austin explained that this cave was used by the Viet Cong to manufacture bombs during the war. They did it in this secret cave to avoid detection! They said that over 100 workers lived and worked in the cave in shifts- so bomb making took place around the clock!
We decided that there was a natural cave at this site, and then the Viet Cong expanded it in order to house their bomb making operation. There were ruins of existing buildings and even some equipment left behind. The real reason I wanted to go to a cave in the first place was to show Landon stalactites and stalagmites, and we found some on the sides of the cave, along with a few bats!
A famous Vietnamese physicist living in France was convinced by Ho Chi Minh to come back to Vietnam and run this cave bomb-making factory. He is now revered in this part of the country for his contributions to the Viet Cong. It is so interesting to hear history from other viewpoints. The Vietnamese do not have hard feelings towards Americans, even though we came in and lost a war. The “enemies” of the Americans in the war are the national heroes, though.
After climbing around the main cavern, we turned on our phone flash lights and explored a man-made side cave that did not have built in electric lights. In this side cave, the workers slept and took breaks. All of the workers stayed in this cave all of the time, to avoid drawing attention to the site.
We only spent 15-20 minutes walking around the cave, but it scores right up there with cool, random things we have done. I guess that’s what happens when you wander and ask questions. This is an easy add-on to a day at Ben En National Park. I would only suggest this option if access to the other caves within the park is not available. I have no idea the name of the cave or location, but if traveling to Ben En, look at the posted map and it is right outside of the park. The tour guide/caretaker will have to open the gate anyway, so checking by the national park first is the way to go.