Of the many fascinating places that we visited during our Halong Bay tour, seeing Sung Sot or Surprise Cave was certainly unique. There are many caves throughout the region, although most of the other ones that we visited were on the water. Surprise Cave is completely different as it is more of what we would consider to be a cavern with large ceilings, stalagmites, and stalactites. It is another very popular location, so the earlier in the day that you can arrive, the better off you will be.
From our cruise ship, we took a small boat to the docks at Bo Hon Island where Sung Sot Cave is located. In order to get to the entrance of the cave, you must climb the approximately 50 stairs that rise high above the bay. The walls of the mountain is covered in plants and trees, but even so the entrance of the cave is visible from the docks below. Before you enter the mouth of the cave, you are rewarded with wonderful views of the bay below and all of the other ships that are there to visit the island.
As you start to explore Surprise Cave, the first chamber that you enter is known as the “Waiting Room” with multicolored lights and a variety of stalagmites and stalactites. It is probably known as the waiting room because that is exactly what it is as different tour groups wait for their turn to enter the narrow passageway that takes you to the second chamber. The ceiling of the cave has unique, swirling patterns from the water that created the large caverns hundreds of years earlier. It is an opportunity for your tour guide to give a brief history of the cave and to get an appreciation of the beautiful rock formations.
The second chamber, called the “Serene Castle”, is even larger and more impressive. There is a path that leads you around the various different formations, many of which that have been given different names because of things that they resemble. The most popular is one that looks like a turtle, which is a revered symbol, so people leave offerings as a blessing in order to receive long life. As you finally make your way out of Sung Sot Cave’s exit, you are once again greeted with wonderful views of Halong Bay.
We visited Bo Hon Island on the final day of our Halong Bay tour and it only took us about two hours to walk through the interior of Surprise Cave. With the amazing geological features, it is certainly worth having to deal with the crowds in order to see the cave.