Here’s another short trip from me. With short notice some teachers and I had one day and one night spare to travel somewhere. With no time to really plan, and on such a tight schedule, we needed to go somewhere not too far away (we live near Hanoi).
We settled on Cuc Phuong, a national park a couple of hours away from Hanoi. It’s also in Ninh Binh province, but it quite different from Tam Coc or Trang An. Here’s what we did with one day there, but we could have easily spent more time there given the chance.
We arrived at the nearest bus station to persistent taxi drivers offering to take us to the national park for ridiculous prices, say no and haggle! We got the price down to 250k (from 500k), but probably should have been less.
When we got there the woman on the entrance desk for the national park practically planned our trip for us, which was helpful because we’d planned nothing! We sorted our accommodation, transport and tickets for the day there. We stayed by Mac Lake within the national park, just 2km from the entrance. You can stay further in the centre which would be amazing if you have a few days to spend there.
The first thing we noticed when walking in Cuc Phuong was the amount of butterflies there was! The butterfly season is over by June but there was still so many in every size and colour. And they’re so friendly! I felt like a Disney princess. Too bad my camera is terrible and I couldn’t catch many of them!
After lunch at the local restaurant we hired a car to take us to the park centre to go hiking. I’m not sure if the trail had a name, but we did the 7km loop that passes by the 1000 year old tree and Palace Cave.
The hike is pretty easy but there are lots of steps which make it a bit more challenging, as well as the humidity! But luckily the majority of it is covered with dense jungle so no sun. Remember to take enough insect repellent, I did and still managed to get bitten to death!
Cave of the Prehistoric Man
Then the car took us to a cave on the way back. The cave of prehistoric man had been excavated in 1966 and old hunting tools had been found there which is pretty cool. Three tombs of prehistoric people are also there, so there are small shrines within the cave.
Carnivore & Pangolin Centre
I’d actually only really recently heard about pangolins and the illegal trade of them in Vietnam. I’m hoping to research more into this (edit: I did! You can read about it here) but basically pangolins are quickly becoming critically endangered as they are hunted for traditional medicine and food.
At the centre they care for pangolins as well as other animals and release them into the wild where possible, and keep them if they are too injured. They also put tracking devices on the animals, which unfortunately cannot stop them from being hunted, but can help them determine the safest places to release them.
Leaving Cuc Phuong is pretty straightforward as a public bus comes right to the park entrance at 9AM to go back to Hanoi, and costs 150k. Make sure you get there early though, as we got there at 8:50 and the bus had already left early so had to turn round to pick us up!
A day is fine to get a taster of Cuc Phuong national park, but I think it would definitely be worth allocating a few more days there to go deeper into the park and see more of the conservation programmes. It would be a great add on to a Ninh Binh visit.
Edit: Please read my subsequent post to find out more about the trafficking of pangolins in Vietnam. I’m very passionate about raising awareness of this subject.
Have you ever been to Cuc Phuong National Park?
If you want to see more photos of my travels you can check out my Flickr