The bomb crater had been caused by the Americans attempts at defoliating the area. Yes, this is where agent orange was dispersed. The result was what I was witnessing now, 35 years later. This reserve was created by the government in 1995 and has very few visitors due to its remote location. Welcome to the end of Vietnam I was being told. The people at the reserve seemed a bit stunned to see me. Apparently I am the first westerner to visit the area. Really?? I think I could not be the first, but it was insisted that I was. I am truly honored if this is the case. I do know I am the first westerner with white skin people in the area had ever seen, and the amazed stares and the frozen stances of people as I passed confirmed it. IT was going to be
getting dark before long and it was time to go to where we would be spending the night. Now here is where it really got back woods. The road narrowed to where there was barely enough room for the Honda. People would stop and stare as we passed, those who saw a person with white shin would jerk on the clothing of others and point. I cannot imagine what they were thinking. Was I a foreign diplomat? A military man? I am sure they are still guessing. We had to negotiate a series of small bridges over canals that were designed for motorcycles. It was pretty tight at times and it would have been probably
better had I been driving, however, Nghia did a fine job for his 2 years of driving experience. We came as far as we could and were now forced to abandon the car. Out I stepped into the middle of shocked people. A westerner!….. out here!!….. People were positioning themselves for a glance at the unusual event. They did not have long though, as there were motorcycles waiting for us to take us a few more kilometers into the jungle where Hau’s in-laws lived. Here was one of the few brick structures I have seen all afternoon. Joy and Nghia plunged into the canal for a swim as the
women hurriedly prepared food. Oh man….. we only ate two hours ago.
The fist course was BBQ dove to be followed with a small stork like bird that lived in the marshes. That was followed by a delicious snake stew and braised turtle cooked in the shell. As Hau went for the turtle head, he noticed it was not needed as we were doing very will on our own getting the party going. We were too full to cook the dog that was purchased and decided that we would
save it for breakfast. After we could not eat anymore, out came a synthesizer and the singing was on. For hours tunes were belted out and countless Mot Hai Ba YO’s were yelled. We had no problem falling off to sleep after the party ended in the wee hours of the morning. The problem however, was waking up horrendously early the next morning to continue our adventure. It was a bit too late to wait for the dog to be cooked, so we headed out and stopped along the road at a place for some street food. It soup was pretty good after I picked out the liver, spleen, and cubed blood. At least there was some beef and beef balls also. Our intent was to return to the reserve and do an eco tour. There were no motorcycles to drive us back to the car, so we chugged down the canals in a large canoe like boat. When we arrived at the small town where we had parked the car, I was surrounded by children getting ready for school. They had never seen anything like me. As we drove off I daydreamed about what a tranquil life one would have in such a place as this.
We passed some very small Nha Tro’s that are the only place a person could stay if visiting the area. They are basically the smallest version of a gust house you can find. No frills, just a room only. Again we arrived at the park and before long a long boat of sorts chugged up for us to board. The Agent Orange dropped here had done its job defoliating the area and made way for a totally new kind of jungle. It is now sort of swamp like with chocking brush, and flora that is so dense that it is virtually impossible to move except by boat. The canals are choked by floating plants similar to water lilies, and the water is black in color from the decomposing vegetation. When we made tight turns there was quite a pungent odor from the water churned by the blades. The first area we stopped was where there were a few remaining trees. I am not even sure if they were trees, it is possible they were just the skeleton of trees covered with vine like growth. From these towering perches were hanging hundreds of Bats. We are talking the big giant things from your worst nightmare, some of them having a wingspan of over a meter. We then went to an area where a spiral staircase wound up into a high lookout for a breathtaking view of the area. I have to admit that as I get older, I seem to be suffering from some kind of vertigo, and I was unable to make it to the top, however, I was still able to get some nice shots.
The return to Saigon was basically a reversal of our trip there. We took a different route home to change the scenery a bit, and stopped for another big meal of catfish and other goodies. We made it back around 6:30 pm which gave me just enough time to check into my hotel before meeting with a couple of other new friends. Graham and Ben are two people I met through the Trip Advisor website. To my surprise, I received a call from my new friend Joy and he joined us. Joy said that he was with some business partners thast were waiting at a bar close by.
The next post will be more pictures