09 Mar New Years in Cat Tien National Park
The only way to enter Cat Tien National Park is via a small ferry over the Dong Nai river. As we roll up to the ferry station, we are asked to park our bikes near the scooters behind the ticket booth. The lady at the ticket booth seems to be confused by our request to take our fully loaded bikes onto the ferry and repeatedly tells us to park the bikes by the scooters and lets us know that there are bicycles for rent in the park. Eventually, we get her to listen and show her on the big sign next to her ticket booth, that it is OK to take our bikes and that there is a fee to take them on the ferry. Surprisingly, we end up paying less than the sign said and push our bikes onto the ferry without any problem.
Once we arrive at the other side, we find our way to the park’s headquarter near the ferry landing to register to camp. The young ranger inside is very busy with a bunch of tourists looking for accommodations in some of the bungalows and just tells us to set up our camp and pay later. After one of his co-workers gives our bikes a concerned look and says something in Vietnamese, he advises us with a big grin on his face, to “lock up your bikes so the monkeys won’t take them into the jungle”. Pondering what we were just told, we head to the big field next to the headquarter to set up camp.
It appears, that camping is not a common thing to do in Vietnam. There is a big field provided to tent campers and there are even three big group tents set up for rent; yet, those are empty and there is only one other small tent that belongs to a backpacker couple. There are however, many local and other Asian tourists wandering through the park, who love to take pictures of us and our setup throughout our stay at the park.
We take the rest of the day to lounge around the tent while taking in the sights and sounds of the surrounding jungle and checking out one of the small park restaurants for dinner.
In the morning, we wake up to the gibbon songs in the jungle. It is New Years Eve and we are not sure whether there will be any celebrations tonight. Just to make sure, we ask the restaurant lady to put a bottle of wine away for us. We move our tent from the tree range, which is close to the ferry docking, to where the only other tent campers where set up before. Looks like we are the only campers left for the night. We gather some firewood, build a small fire ring, and look forward to drinking our bottle of wine at the campfire tonight.
In the meantime though it is time to hand wash some clothes and afterward to go for a nice hike in the jungle to see the giant, ancient Tung trees. The trees are absolutely amazing!
Once back at the camp, we hang out in our hammocks and chairs, before we dig into another fried noodle and beef dinner at the little restaurant. While we eat, we can see a couple of monkeys jump from the restaurant roof onto the surrounding trees and wonder, whether the food in our tent will be safe. As it is getting late we grab our bottle of wine and head back to the tent to start the campfire. Luckily our food and tent are safe and we get to enjoy a nice peaceful New Years eve at the campfire over a bottle of wine. Life is good.
Happy New Year