Vietnam Part 3: Cuc Phuong National Park

After a touristy day in Tam Coc we were glad to escape to the Cuc Phuong National Park, where we came across only a few people. The drive on the motorbike took about one and a half hours and the entrance cost us 60,000 VND (about 2.25€) per person without a guide. A single 18km road runs through the park with a few stops for hiking trail starting points. This was definitely the most amazing road we had ever been on, with the lush green jungle passing by and hundreds of butterflies swarming around us. After thirty minutes of gazing at the scenery while driving, we parked our bike (there was the fee, again…) at the entrance of the three hour hiking trail and set out to the jungle.

I must admit that I was sceptical and overly careful at the beginning. Spiders are not my friends and an encounter with a (in Vietnam often deadly) snake was not on top of my bucket list. The fear that Jim had evoked in me with various horror stories was now back, but faded shortly after he was walking watchfully ahead and pointed out every small animal on the way.

It didn’t take long to discover the first lizard on tree roots. There followed two others, stick insects (the ones doing a good job imitating tree branches), bugs, hundreds of butterflies, a sleeping tree frog on a leaf, cockroaches, a small and probably dead snake (we didn’t investigate further), and giant wood spiders in their huge webs.

Even though it was noon by now, we didn’t see any other people. We got passed by a small guided group much later, at a pace too fast for this gorgeous forest. No one of them glimpsed around and the guide didn’t even try looking out for animals. With groups like this, there’s no wonder people write bad reviews of National Parks claiming “I didn’t see any animals at all” or “it was a nice hike, nothing special though. Saw a spider.” Jim was definitely a better guide and without him and his eagle eyes I would probably have ended up saying the same.

The trail passed a small cave, the “ancient tree” and the four tallest trees. All while climbing up and down many stairs in the incredible heat of the vietnamese jungle.
 

One loses the sense of time and space in there. The scale of everything is mindblowing. Huge fern, trees and liana fight for sunlight and water, between them smaller, exotic plants growing and submerging the terrain in a lush green color. Not only is the flora exceptionnaly large, even the insects are ten times bigger than in Europe. Butterflies as big as my hand, giant bugs buzzing around and did we mention the spiders?

Do you see what aroused Jim's interest?

After the almost four hour hike we hopped on the bike and enjoyed the incredible road back to the Park’s entrance and then back to Tam Coc, where we sat down at the Bamboo Café’s terrace, ordering multiple dishes to satisfy our hunger.

Jessica
Author

Vietnam Travel Log

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