Cat Tien Nationalpark 👨🏻‍🌾

Day 58. When I was in Dalat, a guy I met told me about a national park, located in the middle of the town and Saigon. It was called Cat Tien and I’ve never heard about it. When I returned to Saigon I kept thinking about it and thought I might just give it a try.

Getting there

The journey to the park was a little adventure itself. There are organized tours you can book directly in Saigon, though they start at around 200$. I wouldn’t say they’re not worth the money, but it was simply a bit out of my budget.

So I looked into other options and saw that there are direct local buses going to the park from Saigon for cheap. It seemed like a pretty good option, so I decided to get an uber to the bus station, where I swiftly booked my ticket, got some breakfast and hopped onto the bus. It turned out that it actually took quite long and was not too cheap during the traffic jam in the morning and I was almost late for the bus.

But I made it and was really excited about seeing the park. It took about 4 hours until I was dropped somewhere in the village outside of the park, where I checked in the bungalow I booked and had a coffee on the awesome terrace by the river. It was a seriously sweet and relaxing place and they had two hammocks outside of the bungalow to chill out.

The day I arrived, I didn’t do that much. After I took some rest I rented a bicycle from the guesthouse and explored the village and a temple nearby.

Bungalow in Cat Tien.

Enjoying Sunrise in Cat Tien.

Riding a bicycle around Cat Tien Village.

Buddhist Temple around Cat Tien Village.

Getting in

The day after I was ready to explore the national park. Before arriving, I didn’t know anything specific about it, apart from the fact that it was supposed to be packed with leeches, which the guy I met in Dalat told me. I thought it wouldn’t be that bad and he was just exaggerating, so I didn’t really care about it. Ignoring all additional warnings on the flyer I got at the bungalow (stating people should cover their skin by wearing long clothes and special leech socks), I straight went to the park, wearing my light summer shorts and a shirt.

At the entrance gate, after buying the ticket for the ferry to bring me across the river that was separating the park from the village, I was advised to buy a special cream to put on my ankles, which was supposed to protect against the leeches. I got it and thought I just put on exposed skin parts, my socks would do the rest for protecting myself. Damn, that was so ignorant of me. I’d be taught better soon.

The Nationalpark

Some facts about Cat Tien Nationalpark if you’re interested: it’s honestly one of the most pristine parks I’ve ever seen. It’s seriously huge in size, 720 km² to be precise, although only a very small part of that is open to the public. The rest is preserved and filled with wild animals, such as elephants, crocodiles, wild pigs, monkeys, snakes and probably lots of other toxic and deadly creatures.

My initial walk around the park was pretty chill. I stomped my way through the jungle to an ancient and impressively giant tree.

Giant tree in Cat Tien Nationalpark.

I kept digging deeper into the jungle, hiking across small rivers, lots of mud, through a bamboo forest which all of a sudden turned into a regular leaf tree forest, visited some little waterfalls and was kind of scared by the weird and extremely loud sounds, some random animals were making until I soon felt that my ankle was itching.

Leeches

I was stopping, looking down and saw that there were several ugly fat leeches, sucked full of my blood on my foot. Gross. These bastards are seriously insane and I definitely underestimated them. You might think that socks protect you enough… Let me tell you this: they were creeping their way through the lacing holes of my shoes, through my socks, sucking themselves hard on my skin. At the end of the day I counted 6 spots from leeches overall, one of them even somehow made it on my back. It was crazy!

It doesn’t really hurt all that much, but it’s definitely annoying after a while. Like every time I walked through a muddy area, I probably had around 10 of them on me, making their way to suck my blood and it’s quite exhausting to quickly pull those sticky bastards off of you.

The whole park was still highly worth it though, I guess especially because of the leeches it was quite an adventure.

The Researcher

On my way back to the village I stopped at a resort inside the park for a coffee and some water. It was nothing special, just a normal wooden house I would say. But somehow it felt expensive, so I was interested and asked about the price for a night here. I was told that during high season the place was fully booked and a night would set you back a whopping 100$. I still don’t really get it, why it was that expensive, given that there are far cheaper options (around 10$), both within as well as outside the park.

But anyways, I got that information from the friendly waiter working here. I’m not entirely sure because stupid me didn’t ask him, but judging by his accent he was probably British and seemed to know the area quite well. After a quick chat, he told me he would already live in the national park for about 2,5 years, doing research on dragonflies all by himself. After some time he even offered his services as a tour guide, to show people around. At some point he asked the owners of the resort for a job, that’s how he ended up being here. He later showed me a horrifying spider he caught in a glass, as well as a mantis that was disguised in a leaf.

I don’t know why but he was really ispiring. Living on his own, far away from the normal society, doing his own thing and following his passion that drives him. I’ll probably not forget that guy anytime soon!

The trip to the park was really adventurous and I’d definitely go again. Next time I’d check out the crocodile lake that you can visit here though, instead of only hiking on my own. I’ll leave you with some last photos of the area.

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