T.H.E. B.E.S.T. C.A.V.E. O.F. A.L.L. T.I.M.E.
VIETNAMESE LOVE CAVES, and pretty much every visitor to Halong Bay — Vietnam’s famed sea spot of limestone cliffs peeking up from the green sea off the coast a few hours east of Hanoi — go on wooden junk-style ships that pay a visit to a cave or two. Today I made it to the top attraction, the ‘Amazing Cave,’ where a guide painfully pointed out the many forced likenesses in the stalagmites — ‘this is three elephants,’ ‘this is tiger,’ ‘this is the Boston Marathon… 1982’ — capped with a truly amazing view of the bay from a gap at half way up the mountain.
But the best cave — of all time — is half a country south, in the depths of Marble Mountain, just outside the country’s third-largest city Danang. Visitors on tours, or with guidebooks in hand, almost always miss HELL CAVE, as my motorcycle taxi driver called it. Ticket takers — charging about $1 for admission — told me it was anywhere from ’20 to three years old,’ but the napping workers in a nook inside (sculpting figures in the limestone) make me think it’s a work in progress, still.
You enter hell on a bridge over a fake pond with fake hands reaching out. The water’s clear enough to show a few discarded ones laying at the bottom of the water. Inside bats squeal and triumphant lights illuinate carved figures and tall scary chambers that reach five or so storeys high. Deeper it gets goofier, with decapitated hands and heads looming from the walls, aligators eating humans hole, women getting tongues taken out by pliers, and blue-skinned demons holding up the dead on bloody tridents.
It is the best cave of all time.