Vietnamese, British explorers honored by state for discovery of world's largest cave

By Thuy Vi, Thanh Nien News

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 Ho Khanh (3rd in line), a Quang Binh local, and Howard Limbert (2nd), a British cave explorer, during an exploration at Phong Nha-Ke Bang cave system. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

A man from central Vietnam and a British explorer have been honored by the state after their discovery and exploration of a cave system in Quang Binh put the province on the map and earned it global fame.
Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang has awarded the third-class Labor Order to Ho Khanh, who lives in the province, and Howard Limbert from the British Cave Research Association.
Khanh discovered Son Doong at Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in 1991 and he accompanied Limbert as the latter led a British team to explore the cave in 2008 and made it known as the world’s largest.
The explorers have cooperated in many other cave explorations in the area and helped the province garnered money from caving tours.
Limbert told Thanh Nien News he has seen many changes in Quang Binh in his last 25 years exploring caves here.
"Once a very poor backwater, it now is the fastest growing tourist destination in Vietnam,"  he said, adding that many local people are having a better life thanks to the effective sustainable tourism development.
"Without the amazing people of Phong Nha many of our discoveries including Son Doong would have not been possible, so the medal is for all everyone involved in these discoveries."
Khanh told news website VnExpress the government’s honor is a good news for his years of searching for caves in the area.
“It is an encouragement for me and Mr. Limbert to keep looking for new caves at Phong Nha – Ke Bang.”
The 46-year-old has paid a lot of attention to caves during his jungle trips since 1989 and discovered nearly 20 caves himself.
He and the British team go out for explorations every summer and the next one will be in March.
He is partnering with a local tourism firm to guide tourists into Son Doong, which is five kilometers long, 150 meters high and 200 meters wide.

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