Located in the quieter region of Bai Tu Long Bay, Thien Canh Son Cave is just one among the 59 discovered caves in the Halong Bay area.
Contributing to what experts consider to be Vietnam’s most valuable natural asset, Halong Bay’s grottoes and caves make up a unique ecosystem; yet Thien Canh Son Cave is itself unique in many ways.
Halong Bay attracts millions of visitors every year, traveling from around the world to marvel at the outstanding scenery, and in particular, the area’s distinctive geomorphology. Scattered throughout the region are caves and grottoes that have been formed over millions of years of mechanic erosion. Positioned to the east of Halong Bay is Bai Tu Long Bay, the less traversed region of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although at this point in time far fewer make the journey over from Halong, Bai Tu Long Bay lacks nothing in comparison with its populous neighbor. Cong Do Island, one of the many islets that populate Bai Tu Long Bay, is home to Thien Canh Son Cave.
What You’ll See
The most convenient way to access Thien Canh Son Cave is by joining a cruise ship that includes it on its route. The boat will bring you to the shore of the island, where you’ll disembark and begin your climb up the 60 odd steps to the entrance of the cave. It’s not a harrowing climb by any means, but those with mobility difficulties should take care and be aware of this beforehand. Once you ascend the stairs you’ll find yourself in a small clearing, an uncommon sight in the thick foliage that adorns Cong Do Island.
The entrance to the cave is small and unassuming, looking at it from the outside lends no hand in picturing what is held within. You’ll need to duck down slightly so as not to hit your head on the low entrance, and then follow the downward sloping path into the first cavern. Thien Canh Son Cave is comprised of three caverns in total, each one strewn with stalactites and stalagmites. Unlike the more documented Sung Sot ‘Surprising’ Cave, Thien Canh Son is smaller, and far less crowded with visitors, yet doesn’t lack anything in terms of structure and things to see.
Legend & Folklore
Like the formation of the cave itself, its legends have formed over quite some time. Each of the unique structures have been interpreted and likened to recognisable objects. No doubt when you visit Thien Canh Son Cave you’ll be told about the collection of stalagmites that resembles a baby elephant, or the lotus flower, or the group of gnomes holding a meeting. Granted, it takes a stretch of the imagination and a good sense of humour, but it’s part of the experience, and the locals will have fun sharing the stories with you.
What to Do
Take your time touring around the cave, there’s plenty to see inside thanks to the (albeit limited) natural light accompanied by a smattering of artificial lights. When you’ve finished exploring the inner caverns, take the chance to steps back out into daylight and enjoy the view of Bai Tu Long Bay from your vantage point, it’s a nice place to snap a few photos.
Up until last year, the main attraction at Thien Canh Son Cave was the cave dining experience. Many of the Halong Bay tour operators used to organise fancy candle lit dinners inside various Halong caves, including this one. However, due to a few unfortunate incidents of damage to the stone structures and as a general move to preserve the integrity of these ancient formations, cave dining has since been banned.