More Bloodloss in Vietnam (Aug 10th – Aug 16th)

With visas already in pocket, we left the capital of Cambodia, Phenom Penh, by bus to the old capital of the Vietnamese south, Saigon! Saigon (AKA Ho Chi Minh City) is exactly as I imagined when I close my eyes. The women all wear traditional round straw farm hats even while hustling and bustling the hectic city. There were people hollering from all directions to either come in to their restaurants, get tailored for a suit, or to get massages. We got a cheap guest house room for 7$ then went back into the circus to find some dinner. We picked a very local street side restaurant and had to point and chose from the undecipherable Vietnamese menu. We had some nice traditional music to go along with our curbside ethnic meal. The food is bland when compared to Thai and Cambodian cuisine. It’s much less spicy and leaves an unsatisfied feeling after eating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, just not as rich as the other countries thus far.

After dinner, Michelle and I headed out to buy some supplies for a camping trip we planned on doing the following day. It was around 9pm when we left Shane P. and Ruthless and started out in one direction. Not before long, we had no idea where we were. More importantly, we had no idea where we wanted to return too. We walked for two more hours looking for something familiar (12 o’clock am now) before succumbing to a taxi driver and trying to translate where we needed to go. We used words like foreigner and white person to see if he could take us back to a touristy area we passed by earlier in the evening. He understood nothing, but we had fun nonetheless seeing Saigon at night as we looked for recognizable features. Two cab rides and one scam later, we thankfully made our way back to the hotel and crashed.

The next morning we bused it up to Cat Tien. The goal was to trek Cat Tien national park, but when we arrived at the town of Cat Tien at around 4:30pm, we realized the park entrance is far from the city. Backtracking is not usually a good thing, but it’s what we had to do to enter the jungle. We slept for the evening, then the following morning mini bused it to Tan Phu, the gate way to the park.

I usually can keep my temper when involved with strangers, but when we got off the bus in Tan Phu, immediately we were marked by motor bikers. See, a popular transportation method is to jump on the back of a motorbike. Well, the second this group saw us leave the bus, they were on like flies on rice. We needed motorbikes, but these guys wanted to rip us off. Did we have other options? I set to find out! No matter where we walked to, the same ‘gang’ would follow. No other motor biker would take us in fear of the gang, that already had us selected. We soon found a truck that could have taken us, but as he was backing up, the gang leader had a short discussion that scared the driver into no longer wanting to take us. I realize this is how business is done here, but in my head I was determined to get into the park by an option different than these bullies, so we developed a plan! Shane and Michelle distracted them, while Ruthless and I split away and got some different drivers. We then switched seats with Shane and Michelle while I ran and got two more bikes with drivers. To make a short story long, we found an alternative that didn’t involve paying the bullies that threatened to beat up any person nice enough to want to help us!

The motorbike voyage (40 min) brought us to the entrance of the park, almost! First, we had to take a small boat to the other side of a very muddy river. Cat Tien National Park has a lot to offer, on paper. Anything from Tigers and Elephants, to the rare Javan Rhino and Asiatic Leopard. Personally, I just wanted some big pythons. We never found any ranger in the headquarters, so we took some pictures of a map (for our map) and headed off.

We first started down a dirt road and encountered monkeys. They were the same species we saw at the temples of Cambodia, Crab Eating Macaques. They were very territorial and the male came down to keep us out of the trees. As we continued we caught two yellow and black water looking snakes, of which species I have no idea. They were extremely docile, but because of the uncertainty, I handled them with caution. From the road, we off a on a trail heading for crocodile lake. We caught a really neat looking lizard, but after that things started to suck…..literally!!! This trail (as all trails in this jungle) was infested with land leeches. A simple roll up of the pants would reveal handfuls of these slimy fellows. Personally, I didn’t mind them that much, I mean they don’t transfer diseases like mosquitoes or ticks, and you can’t feel them unlike a wasp or spider. However, this optimistic view wasn’t shared by everyone. Ruthless was repulsed by these little dudes drinking her dry. Almost to the point of a nervous breakdown, we had to get up camp fast to get her off the ground.

We found the perfect place for our hammocks, under probably the biggest tree in the forest. It’s root structure was large enough to dwarf an elephant! We set up camp, ate some tuna and yogurt we brought (didn’t have too many options), then as the sun was setting Michelle and I went for a night trek. Ruthless and Shane P. opted to stay leech free in the hammocks.

I expected way more than we uncovered while searching the rain forest floor in the dark. For about 4 hours we flash lighted the jungle and uncovered only a gecko, centipede (really large might I add, about 10 inches), a couple dull spiders, and 2 big millipedes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the feeling of exploring the nocturnal forest, but I really was hoping to see some creatures. With so much potential, I felt a little unfortunate with the results.

The next morning we broke down camp and had some yogurt before setting off. Ruthless and Shane P. couldn’t deal with leeches, so the plan was to split up, them turning back while we continue our trek forward. After 10 minutes of parting ways, we started hearing ‘Travis’ being yelled through the trees. Apparently, they became worried about becoming lost and thought splitting up was a bad idea(even though the main road was only 30 minutes walk on a well groomed trail). Personally, I was a little disappointed to reunite with them, since the trek ahead was going to be difficult and I knew they were not going to be whole-heartily for it. Sadly, it turns out I was right.

We eventually made it to the park headquarters deep in the forest where we had to cross a lake to get to the trail at the other side. This definitely was a stopping point that gave Ruthless an opportunity to express how badly she wanted to do nothing but return back immediately. Michelle and I really wanted to continue, but splitting up at this point was no longer a wise decision. In addition, we both knew if we were all to continue, the strenuous conditions would have made certain people completely crack, making it horrible for everyone else. Unfortunately, after paddling a canoe throgh barbed, water-tolerant bamboo, against our selfish wishes, we turned back from the land of wild elephants and tigers for the sake of the group. My dreams of finding a large python will have to be postponed till I find myself with people only as enthusiastic as myself venturing into the misty mountains of Borneo! I think that may be my destiny!

After practically running out of the forest the way we came and motorbiking back to Tan Phu, we crashed at a hotel (that was watching our packs during the hike) for the evening. The next morning (with legs marked dotted red from leeches), we bused up to Da Lat, meaning the city of ‘Eternal Springs’. We rented a cheap room and found a place to eat. The city was high in the mountains and was chilly (60 F) in climate. It reminded me of Baguio in the Philippines, and after drinking some fresh local coffee we strolled a night bizarre amongst only Vietnamese. It was a beautiful and tranquil city perched high in the mountains.

We woke early the next day and rented some motorbikes. The goal was the reach Pangour Waterfall about 60km away. With only an idea of its location, but with the knowledge of how to say its name in Vietnamese, we headed south on highway 20. After stopping every so often asking directions, we found ourselves on a dirt road off the highway. I was driving with Michelle holding on, while Shane and Ruthless were on the other bike. Seven K’s down the winding road we arrived at the spectacular falls. Water was pouring off the entire face of an extremely wide cliff. The rocky backdrop of red stone really made for an awesome sight. After a beautiful Kodak moment we hopped on our hogs and rolled back to Da Lat. We checked out of the hotel and found a bus for Nha Trang (a city along the rail road that connects Hanoi (the capital) to Saigon. The plan was to catch an overnight train and reach the capital far in the North 30 hours later. And that’s what we did!

One Response to “More Bloodloss in Vietnam (Aug 10th – Aug 16th)”

  1. paul cole says:

    yo, your pal owen wilson tried to kill himself the other day. you need to take him on your next adventure and show him that life is worth living.

    keep it up t-storm!

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