Van Trinh cave (aka Giang Tien Cave) is located in Van Trinh hamlet in Nho Quan province. At some 4000 m² in area and a ceiling of around 100m at its highest point Van Trinh is considered one of the most extensive known “dry” caves in Ninh Binh and also one of the most beautiful.
The entrance to the cave is about 40m up the side of the Mo (Wooden Bell) Mountain, reached by 80 odd stone steps. The interior of the cave has strategically placed artificial lighting and a constructed path with handrails. To get there, most people will go by boat from the Hoàng Long River wharf in Van Trinh though there is a vehicular track across the Hoang Long Dyke.
As mentioned, it is a large cave and you need to put aside enough time to fully enjoy the experience. The entrance itself is quite narrow but quickly expands out in a forest of stalactites and stalagmites festooning the interior.
Note: Just a reminder that stalactites hang tight onto the cave ceiling and grow downwards while stalagmites grow from the floor upward. A handy way to remember is that the “c” is for ceiling and the “g” for ground.
Many legends and myths have been created based on the size and shapes of the various formations. For example, in the main cavern is a section with stalagmites that resemble fully grown male phallus while nearby is a small cavity known as the “Birth Door”. Make of it what you will, local childless couples will often visit to touch the stones and enter through the cavity.
Deep into the cave is sinkhole called the “Dragon Well” with water flowing from the bottom up. In local legend, a princess from heaven came down to earth and created the well as a bath to keep the people healthy and clean. To celebrate this goddess, a small shrine was created at the entrance to thank and give praise to this ancient benefactor.
Among the many sparkling stalactites, some will resemble people, spirits, mothers holding children, plants, animals such as clams, eagles, tigers, turtles, etc. There are also small smooth stones like bird’s eggs or giant marbles. In ancient times, locals would come to collect the smaller stones to take back home and grind them into a medicinal paste.
For more than 100 years, the cave entrance was buried by a landfall but it was reopened in 2001 and has become a famous and very attractive destination for visitors to Ninh Binh.
Tour groups will often include a visit to Van Trinh Cave as part of a round trip across Van Long Lake and the floating village at Kenh Ga. This is probably the easiest option. An alternative is a self-drive up to Kenh Ga and then along the dyke to the Cave system. It is a large and beautiful cave consisting of several interconnecting caverns, so remember to set aside enough time (1-2 hours) to fully explore its mysteries.
Around 25km from Ninh Binh City along mostly flat, all weather roads, it is possible for experienced cyclists to make the journey, though an overnight stop at Van Lam or Kenh Ga is probably advised. Google Maps and Booking.com are your best bets here but plan your trip well as this is the real Ninh Binh countryside, with very little English spoken and only rudimentary supplies. Public transport is almost unheard of, although local buses will run periodically. If you hire a taxi or Grab, make sure it includes the return journey.
Entrace to Van Trinh cave is around 100,000 VND per person. For those with the time and energy, once you finish exploring the cave, you might want to head back to the nearby Van Long lake for the beautiful natural scenery there and the myriad of water fowl and birds that use the lake as home.