Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Cruising to Cúc Phương

One of the thousand beautiful
butterflies in the park
We knew from our previous mornings experience that breakfast was going to take a while, so we were up again at 6.30am in order to be at Anh’s café by 8am for our motorbike tour out to Cúc Phương National Park. The company ‘Vic’s Travels’ was new and Dave was understandably a little bit worried firstly as there were no reviews about the new company and secondly about riding on a motorbike, even though we weren’t the ones driving them. He’d hinted to Sơn that he didn’t enjoy the idea and so our two drivers Sơn and Long assured us that they’d be safe and take it easy. And they kept their word; it was a very enjoyable, scenic ride, although a fairly long one since Sơn and Long kept the speed down to the requested slow pace.

An ‘Orange Pants’ Langour
At the entrance to the park we jumped off and walked, somewhat like cowboys, down to the Gibbon and Languor Sanctuary. All the monkeys were original and interesting to see, although the cages are a little small, but thankfully they do try to release some back into the semi-wild when they are ready. The most impressive to see were the ‘Orange Pants’ Langour as they really look like they have clothes on! There’s also a new Turtle Sanctuary, but after seeing the amazing turtles on Galapagos Islands they weren’t overly impressive but at least they were being cared for and bred in safety.

What's up Mr Tortoise?
We got back on our bikes and continued into the park, we started to see a few butterflies as the slight drizzle had stopped and we were told that June is a good season to see massive hordes of them in the park. Our next stop was the ‘Prehistoric Man’ cave which required quite a hike up to the entrance. The cave turned out to be much bigger than we originally thought, it kept going further and further back, but since we only had the torches on our phones to light the way we stopped exploring once the small spaces required crawling.

Into the Prehistoric Man cave
After the cave we continued onto the starting point of the trek, feeling guilty as we sped through massive swarms of beautiful butterflies and leaving a trail of them in our wake. Luckily when we arrived there was a small kiosk as we needed something to give us energy for the hike as it was already 12! We bought a huge bag of jack fruit chips and munched as we enjoyed the track through the rainforest. It was very beautiful with loads of butterflies, ugly toads and a huge 1000 year old tree. It was meant to be a 2 hour hike, but we arrived at the finish in 1.5 hours, drenched in sweat from the humidity and looking forward to our bike ride back so that the wind could dry us out. Before we set off Sơn and Long asked us if we would like to try a local buffalo restaurant, and even though we sensed it was a bit of a tourist trap we agreed to go. It turned out we were right as two other girls we’d seen on the tour of the Sanctuary were also there having lunch. 

The rain forest track
The prices were easily double what we’d pay back in town, but we were hungry and decided just to order anyway so we had a buffalo phở and a buffalo noodle stir-fry which unfortunately used 2-minute noodles instead of home-made ones like we’d become accustomed to. The buffalo was tasty though, and not something you get to try every day, so at least that was worth it.

We took different route back into town, through more rice fields with panoramic views back dropped by craggy mountains, we cruised alongside streams laden with lotus flowers and passed through small villages with locals spreading out their rice across the entire road so it could dry out. Our butts were dead by the time we got back, but it had been a great tour and an excellent day that we decided to top off with a final chè in town before trying to get to bed early-ish as we had a 5.20am alarm for the following morning to start our journey to Cát Bà Island…

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