The Vietnam visitor experience: Part One…

 —  24/09/2009

Kia ora, and hope you’ve all been enjoying the great blog posts from my fellow DOCies…

I recently had a month long holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia, and was privileged enough to sample a few protected areas while over there. Although I was going to be away in the lead up to Conservation Week, I was still really keen to contribute to the blog, and seeing that visiting a couple of national parks and other protected areas were at the top of our ‘to-do’ list anyway, I planned to check out how these countries provide their visitor information as a way of linking back to the work I do at DOC.

After arriving in Hanoi and taking in the sites for a few days, we headed to Cat Ba National Park, which sits just south of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Halong Bay.

After a day and night sailing around Halong Bay, our next day was to Cat Ba Island, of which about half of it’s 140² km has been established as a national park. The park entrance itself was where we got our first taste of visitor information, in the form of an orientation sign packed with images and a reasonable map. Not bad I thought… although the next sign did not fill me with confidence.
The 'map' at the track entrance

The 'map' at the track entrance

We ended up taking the track with the rather general description of ‘go around – not very steep’, which, in my humble opinion, was actually pretty steep.

At this stage I would have loved to have been provided with ANY information about the track, (something like the track category system DOC uses would have been fantastic!), or maybe how long each of the walks would take, as armed with this information (pre-visit preferably) I would have known to wear boots and not my ‘tramping jandles’ which didn’t look like they were going to cut it.

Just to make it all the more fun at this point we got drenched by a monsoon downpour of epic proportions, so to add to the pretty steep track, it was now very slippery. Now, it was rather humbling for someone like myself who can’t understand tramping in New Zealand and coming across people wearing inappropriate gear, as now I got a taste of my own medicine when both my jandels broke mid trek…

Just incase you had forgotten to today...

Just incase you had forgotten to today...

 So now barefoot in the Vietnamese jungle, soaked to the bone and covered in clay from the knee down, we pushed on to Ngu Lam Peak (225m). 200-odd meters doesn’t really sound like a peak, but by this point it felt more like 2000m.

We scrambled up the final section, and realised why we’d started in the first place. An amazing view across heavily forested peaks opened up before us, doubled with an incredibly rusty-looking viewing tower to climb. The walk up the tower was do-able, the walk down (as you’ll see in the picture) was pure terror!

The view out over the park

The view out over the park

One step at a time...

One step at a time...

A wonderful experience, but we could have done with a brochure or two 🙂

Tune in next time for a trip to Cuc Phuong National Park

2 responses to The Vietnam visitor experience: Part One…


    This sounds meeeaannn !


    Amazing adventure – makes me want to go there! I’d have a tough time getting back down off the tower, though!

    Not to pat ourselves on the back TOO much, but those signs do make you appreciate the facilities and infrastructure that we enjoy in our parks here in NZ.

    I suppose the natural beauty of that jungle probably helped keep your mind off the fact you could be lost. Looking foward to seeing your next post. Did you see any wildlife?