During the Vietnam War, Cat Ba Island was used as a kind of safe haven for the North Vietnamese army. Due to the heavy American bombing, a secret bomb proof hospital and safe house for the VC leaders was built inside a cave, high up on one of the many limestone karsts which dominate the island. The hospital could not be seen from the ground or the air, making it the perfect spot for a safe house.
It was abandoned after 1975, but now it is a popular tourist attraction on the island.
As I climbed up the steps which lead up the mountain, I would never have even known that there was a cave here, and even when I got close to the cave mouth it wasn’t easy to see that there was any habitation inside.
This secret hospital was actually built into three different levels. The first level is entirely man made from concrete, and after entering through the tiny door, it was quite eerie inside even after our guide turned on the lights. We were the only people there.
The rooms are all empty, but our guide told us about what each room was used for, most of which were hospital rooms for injured soldiers as well as surgical rooms and doctors offices.
The second level of the hospital is much smaller and its walls are mostly natural rock. Up here there was a swimming pool and the natural cavern was used as a cinema.
The tiny third level had offices for the VC leaders who used the facility as a safe house.
The hospital is a true feat of engineering, with ventilation shafts and fresh water access. They even had a quick escape route from the upper levels straight to the bottom level, as well as a second entrance for a quick escape if the cave was ever invaded.
The guide who showed us around the cave was excellent and knew everything there was to know about this secret hospital. Definitely check it out if you head to Cat Ba Island.