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Published: March 5th 2010
19/2/10 - Cuc Phuong National Park is about 140km south of Hanoi. The park was established in 1962 and was Vietnam’s first area declared as a National Park. The park is home to some lovely forests, a wide range of animals and birds, plus some ancient burial sites and caves once inhabited by ancient man.
The drive to Cuc Phuong was also interesting, as we took a bit more of a back road to get there. We travelled through farmland and small villages. Each house had a small pond for growing water vegetables or raising ducks, everyone was busy planting rice. Park Activities
There are lots of activities available in the park, including those we took part in - hiking, spotlighting for animals and early morning bird watching. We got rooms in one of the stilt houses for about A$6 each per night. The accommodation was basic but comfortable, with a shared bathroom. There are also bungalows available which are a bit more comfortable. There is also a restaurant offering simple and wholesome food to visitors, oh plus cold beer.
We took a short hike through the forest to an ancient tree. As we walked we noted
that the vegetation changed from groves of banana trees to thick forest and jungle. Signs showed that the local animals included Cloud Leopards and Bears. We did not see any but could hear many birds and animals in the forest.
Spot lighting was a lot of fun, being in the forest at night was so peaceful. After a few days in Hanoi this was a great change. We hired a local guide for this and bird watching the next morning. It was well worth doing so. We saw one large flying squirrel just as it took off from the branch of a tree and flew across our path. Some fire flies were buzzing about creating an interesting little show for us. Up in the trees there were also some rather large spiders, you could see their eyes shining back at us when we found them with our torches.
Over dinner we discussed the fate of the small puppies that were running around the eating area. Each culture has its taboos and acceptable foods, the French enjoy horse meat, some cultures eat monkey, here the pups were being raised as dog meat and would be butchered at about 9
months of age. The breed I was told was called Cho Ta. Where as the more western style guard dog is called Cho Tay. An interesting dinner time topic me thinks.
Our meals here consisted of BBQ pork, rice, plus steamed vegetables. All this was prepared in a very basic kitchen area. The food was simple and very satisfying, the BBQ pork was delicious. I like seeing a nice pair of Tits in the morning!
20/2/10 - We had an early start for our bird watching before breakfast. Our guide had a very powerful telescope and could find many interesting species of bird for us to look at, including fish tailed drongos, red breasted tits and wood peckers among others. At breakfast a bird landed on a nearby sign. We called the guide over to ask what type it was.The guide had not seen this one before, he got very excited and we felt very priviliged to have seen it.
After breakfast we took another short hike to look at the once inhabited cave and another ancient tree. In the forest were burial areas used by the locals, simply marked by rocks. We could hear Langurs
and Gibbons in the trees but did not spot any. The walk got a bit hot and sweaty thanks to the humidity (or was that my lack of fitness - note to self - do more walking back at home). Our distant cousins
After lunch we did a tour of the Primate Centre. They run a rehabilitation and breeding program for the primates. Some species are so close to extinction that less than 100 survive in the country. The ones that looked like they were wearing a pair of white shorts were so funny. The babies are just so cute and all of them remind us so much of ourselves it is amazing to see our distant cousins up close.
Combining a visit to Cuc Phuong and other attractions in the Ninh Binh area was a great idea. A few days at the park are really good, a mountain bike would have come in handy if we had stayed longer and would enable you to explore a bit more. What we saw in our short stay was lovely. A good chance to un-wind, breath in some clean air and forget the rest of the world. VResort
and the Kim Boi hot springs
20/2/10 - After a great stay at Cuc Phuong we indulged ourselves at the VResort at Kim Boi Springs. The waters are reputedly as good as many European mineral springs and are renowned for their therapeutic qualities. Mike, Lorenza and I were the only western visitors at the resort, the other guests were largely happy, noisy, playful family groups who were still enjoying the post Tet holidays. I think a lot of them found the sight of two slightly over weight Aussie men in the springs rather amusing. Mike and I also enjoyed a sauna. Noodle village festival
21/2/10 - our drive back to Hanoi took us through some interesting farming areas. AT one stage the road was so close to the rice fields we thought we might get bogged on the roadside. The villages were full of farming folk doing their best to get ahead. In fact the locals look no different to honest, hard working farmers anywhere in the world. Lorenza and I both love seeing them make the most of the fertile land they have.
Closer to Hanoi the farm land was replaced by a lot of
road construction work with the rice fields being reclaimed and filled to build new industrial areas. The highway being built included 2 lanes in each direction for trucks and cars and then a separated motorcycle and bicycle lane on each side - a huge project.
The traffic came to a complete stop at one stage and the police halted our progress to allow a big procession to cross the highway. The procession turned out to be the festival for a famous noodle making village. There were people dressed in many colourful costumes, carrying items of religious significance. At the area around the nearby temple there were obviously a lot of fun games to be played plus some noodle making contests. Cost of car & driver
The car and driver for the 4 days touring the Ninh Binh and surrounding areas cost a total of 5,225,000VND (about A$300) and we covered about 520km in that period. We gave the driver a tip of 100,000VND per day. So the total cost for the car and driver was about A$80 per person. Compare that to basic car hire in other parts of the world. Back in Hanoi yet again
once inhabited by ancient man, now littered by modern man
We got ourselves unpacked and freshened up again in room 508, our favorite room in our favourite hotel. Did some shopping for some Buddhist items, 20 small international Buddhist flags that I want to sew onto a length of string like Tibetan prayer flags. We then grabbed some pork buns to snack on and browsed through a wine shop. We also found our way back to our favourite dried fruit shop.
We dined in a restaurant which served good fresh beer, plus beef with some kind of dumplings and a Vietnamese salad (cucumber, tomato, and a tangy sauce). 4 courses, plus 2 beers cost us 166,000VND (About $5 each).
99% of the shops were now open, with the city coming back to life again after the Tet holidays. We have a few days to continue to explore Hanoi before we go to Ba Be.
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