Exploring Son Doong Cave. Carsten Peter/National Geographic, via Getty Images
This year's New York Times' 52 Places to Go list includes Vietnam's central province of Quang Binh and the southern reaches of the Mekong River.
Each January, the editors of the newspaper's Travel section publish their Places to Go issue. This year, Quang Binh was ranked the eighth among 52 places, thanks to its Son Doong Cave - one of the world's largest caves which is now, for the first time, accessible to tourists.
As described by the New York Times, huge shafts of light penetrate Son Doong's vast caverns, allowing forests of 100-foot-tall trees to thrive in spaces big enough to accommodate 40-story skyscrapers. Colossal 260-foot stalactites are also present. Monkeys, hornbills and flying foxes have all been spotted in this surreal habitat, first fully explored in 2009.
While trips into Son Doong are limited in number (only 220 permits for the year) and only available to visitors with deep pockets (over US$6,000 per trip), the nearby and more affordable Tu Lan Cave is also now open to adventurous travelers, according to the Times.
Son Doong, which is 150 meters high and 200 meters wide, became known worldwide in 2009 when it was explored by members of British Cave Research Association led by Howard Limbert and his wife Deb Limbert, guided by local resident Ho Khanh.
In Asia, Quang Binh is followed by Ishigaki (Japan), Yogyakarta (Indonesia), Krabi (Thailand), and Siem Reap (Cambodia).
Another Vietnamese location the Mekong River also made it to the list, ranked at the 35th position.
According to the New York Times, like the Danube in Europe, the Mekong River in Southeast Asia has become a vital river cruising course, with a variety of small-ship itineraries linking Vietnam and Cambodia. The river ends in southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta.
Top three on the list are Cape Town (South Africa), Christchurch (New Zealand) and the North Coast, California (the US), respectively.
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