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Vietnam's Ede ethnic woman makes 120 expeditions to Son Doong Cave for free

Saturday, October 22, 2022, 10:30 GMT+7
Vietnam's Ede ethnic woman makes 120 expeditions to Son Doong Cave for free
After becoming a cave adventure tour guide for Oxalis, H’Anetta receives training for the job every three months. Photo: Supplied

H’Anetta from the Ede ethnic group has traveled to Son Doong Cave, the largest cave in the world in the central province of Quang Binh, 120 times.

Her friends often teased her, saying that: “Each expedition to Son Doong Cave costs US$3,000, thus 120 expeditions will cost you $360,000, or roughly VND9 billion. You are fabulously rich!”

In fact, these trips cost H’Anetta nothing.

In contrast, the cave has helped her make a good living, since she works as a local guide for Son Doong Cave adventure tours.

In this supplied photo, H’Anetta shares the history of the cave with travelers.
In this supplied photo, H’Anetta shares the history of the cave with travelers.

She is also the only female guide in charge of this cave expenditure.

As shared by H’Anetta, her name means “small eyes” in the Ede language.

She was given this name by her grandpa as she was born with big eyes.

Maybe, the elderly tends to choose their babies’ names in contrast to the babies’ appearance or characteristics, concerned that something way above average is not good for kids, she explained.

H’Anetta (left) talks to travelers during an expedition to Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. Photo: Supplied
H’Anetta (left) talks to travelers during an expedition to Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. Photo: Supplied

Her mom is an Ede ethnic woman residing in Buon Ma Thuot City in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, while her dad is a Gia Ray ethnic man in neighboring Gia Lai Province.

Her parents met each other in Nha Trang in the central part of Vietnam before moving to Gia Lai.

Living in the matrilineal society, H’Anetta follows her mom’s last name instead of her dad’s.

The ethnic girl was lucky as her parents always encouraged her to study more.

After graduating from high school, she was admitted to the Faculty of English Linguistics at Hue University in central Vietnam.

She returned to her hometown in Gia Lai after graduation to teach English at her high school.

But things did not go her way. The girl could not make it to become an official teacher at the school.

Her parents again suggested her to follow higher education.

She registered to follow a Master’s degree in theory and methodology of English language teaching in Hue City.

While studying the Master’s degree, a friend told her that Oxalis Adventure, the only one to operate Son Doong Cave expeditions, was recruiting local guides for cave adventure tours.

H’Anetta decided to apply for the job, partly because she has a love for nature, adding that she got a little bit angry seeing “male candidates are prioritized” in the recruitment announcement.

In fact, Oxalis did not refuse female applicants, but only men would often be able to meet requirements for this adventure-related job.

H’Anetta prepared carefully for the job interview so as to show that she could perform as well as male guides.

The only thing concerning her most was the swimming skill required for the job. This skill is a must for an adventure tour guide.

Though she did not know how to swim, the girl managed to win over the recruiter as she showed an excellent performance at the interview.

Oxalis then hired Tommy, a swimming teacher who worked in the U.S., to teach H’Anetta how to swim. Two months later, the girl passed the swimming test.

After becoming a cave adventure tour guide for Oxalis, H’Anetta receives training for the job every three months.

A supplied photo shows H’Anetta rests during an expedition to Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam.
A supplied photo shows H’Anetta rests during an expedition to Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam.
H’Nen Niê (right), who was among the Top 5 Miss Universe 2018, and H’Anetta pose for a photo in an expedition to Son Doong Cave in 2020. Photo: Ngo Tran Hai An
H’Nen Niê (right), who was among the Top 5 Miss Universe 2018, and H’Anetta pose for a photo in an expedition to Son Doong Cave in 2020. Photo: Ngo Tran Hai An

The Ede girl has received much love from travelers since she became a local guide for the cave expeditions.

Her most memorable gift was from a group of Canadian travelers who visited the nearby En Cave on Vietnam’s Reunification Day (April 30) in 2015.

Around half of a month later, these travelers wrote on travel review website Tripadvisor: “A fantastic experience. We joined a two-day-one-night tour to En Cave. The tour was operated by a travel firm attaching great importance to safety and environment issues. It was amazing to see its staff pick up all garbage along the way (which is an unpopular practice in Vietnam).

"Anetta (H’Anetta), our local guide, is awesome too. Her English is really good. She is friendly and hilarious. You can easily realize her passion for the job and caves. After finishing the trip, we faced some obstacles (excluded from the tour itinerary) linked to train tickets. She accompanied us to Dong Hoi and helped us address the issues…”

H’Anetta is still moved when reminiscing about that memory.

H’Anetta (center) smiles as Oxalis staff members surprisingly celebrate her 100th expedition to Son Doong Cave in 2021. Photo: Supplied
H’Anetta (center) smiles as Oxalis staff members surprisingly celebrate her 100th expedition to Son Doong Cave in 2021. Photo: Supplied

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Huy Tho - Minh Duy / Tuoi Tre News

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