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
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
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.