It’s only a short time. That’s the feeling I got while watching Alastair Evans’ s environmental documentary, Skin in the mountain. The question at hand is the certainty that one of the most beautiful natural wonders on Earth will turn into a luxury tourist destination.
The largest cave in the world is Hang Son Doong, recently discovered (2009) in the jungles of Central Vietnam. It has been discovered so recently that more people have scaled Mount Everest than visited it. Hang Son Doong is extremely elegant and measures over 38.5 million cubic meters, it would be easy to hold several city blocks. The cave descends to the bottom of the river bed which doubles as a basin. The entrance gets just enough sunlight to keep a green backdrop on the way to the hollow. During the dry season, locals set up tents, campsites, and all amenities for skilled spelunkers.
Hang Son Doong is near the town of Phong Nha, which was destroyed during the Vietnam War. It is a remote village living in poverty that has become a popular tourist and luxury destination overnight. But, of course, when a small town begins to see success, the government has to carve out its pound of meat. So in 2014, the government decided to build a cable car system down to the heart of the cave that allows thousands of travelers to visit the cave every day. Unfortunately, this “improvement” means a special death for one of the most precious geological wonders in the world.
Take my advice and try to see Skin in the mountain on the big screen. I do not know how but try. If not available, view it on the largest HD screen possible. The film is amazing, as Alastair Evans captures the beauty of Hang Son Doong. The images alone slow down the importance of keeping these caves untouched by anything resembling physical greed. The first half of the film is about the cave, its history, and it’s an adventure destination… that could kill you if you do not know what you are doing. What more could you want.
“… As soon as physical desire walks at the foot of the cave, its natural extinction is almost certain. For a film he says ‘** beautiful!’“
The second half of this almost two hour documentary is about the environmental and economic fight against Hang Son Doong. First, it is argued that once physical greed steps a foot at the base of the cave, its natural extinction is almost certain. The film says “beautiful s ** t!” ris.
The battle against Son Doong is very real and uncertain now that the government has expressed interest. Vietnam remains a one-party communist country. Complaints against the government (even for the environment) are met with police action, blows, and imprisonment. However, with a cable car to the cave almost inevitable, a social media protest was able to stop the government dogs for now.
Then there’s Phong Nha, ready for the richness of tourism. Environmental architects have come to design eco-friendly resorts that add to the natural beauty all around. However, some feared that as the cave grew, the land became more valuable, and the locals sold it for cash. Then Covid happened. Due to travel restrictions, Phong Nha became a ghost town, and local people were given loans on improvements.
The same weakness in Skin in the mountain its length. The film is two hours long, and contains sections on Vietnamese history and politics, which surprised me, “Isn’t this about the cave system?” But I know politics is there for a reason. If so Skin in the mountain It’s about making the world care about what happened to Hang Son Doong, it worked perfectly. I’m sure I’ll never visit the cave again. The day-long walk from Phong Nha largely seals my clan, but there are so few patches of unspoiled nature left in the world that the remaining sections must be protected.
For more information, visit official website of the Skin in the mountain.