VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Mekong Delta

My Tho - Around My Tho - Ben tre - Around Ben Tre - Vinh Long - Tra Vinh - Around Tra Vinh - Sa Dec - Cao Lanh - Around Cao Lanh - Can Tho - Soc Trang Around Can Tho - Around Soc Trang - Bac Lieu - Around Bac lieu - Ca Mau - Around Ca Mau - Nam Can - Long Xuyen - Around Long Xuyen - Chau Doc - Around Chau Doc - Ba Chuc - Tuc Dup Hill - Ha Tien - Around Ha Tien
Hon Chong - Rach Gia - Phu Quoc Island

AROUND CAO LANH

White Stork Sanctuary
To the northeast of Cao Lanh is a bird sanctuary (Vuon Co Thap Muoi) for white storks. The sanctuary only covers 2 hectares, but the birds seem mostly undisturbed by the nearby farmers.
The storks are accustomed to people and are fairly easy to spot, as they feed in the mangrove and bamboo forests. They live in pairs and don't migrate with the seasons, so you can see them at any time of year.
There are no roads as such to the bird sanctuary, so getting there requires a trip by boat. Dong Thap Tourist can arrange this, though you may be able to arrange it elsewhere. A speedboat costs USS25 per hour and the ride takes 50 minutes. A slow boat costs US$4 per person (with 20 people) and takes three hours to make the return journey. In the dry season, you have to plan your boat trip according to the two daily tides - at low tide the canals can become impassable.
Many travellers include a trip to White Stork Sanctuary with a visit to Rung Tram (see below).

Rung Tram
Southeast of Cao Lanh and accessible by boat tour is the 52-hectare Rung Tram (Tram Forest; admission 5000d; 7am-5pm) near My Hiep village. The area is one vast swamp with a beautiful thick canopy of tall trees and vines. It's one of the last natural forests left in the Mekong Delta and by now probably would have been turned into a rice paddy were it not for its historical significance. During the American War the VC had a base here called Xeo Quit, where top-brass VC lived in underground bunkers. But don't mistake this for another Cu Chi Tunnels - it's very different.
Only about 10 VC were here at any given time. They were all generals who directed the war from here, just 2km from a US Inilitary base. The Americans never realised that the VC generals were living right under their noses. Of course, they were suspicious about that patch of forest and periodically dropped some bombs on it to reassure themselves, but the VC remained safe in their underground bunkers.
During the rainy season a 20-minute boat tour (4000d) by canoe takes you past old bunkers and former minefields along narrow canals filled with ever-present dragonflies and water hyacinths. During the dry season you can explore this area on foot.
Access to Rung Tram is most popular by boat and many visitors combine a visit with a trip to White Stork Sanctuary. You can also try hiring a speedboat from Cao Lanh to Rung Tram, which takes around 30 minutes (depending on the tides). It is also possible to reach the forest by road if you are travelling by car or motorbike. From My Hiep, you can also hire a slow boat (seating up to 10 persons) that takes around 40 minutes to make the 2km journey to Rung Tram.

Tram Chim Nature Reserve
Due north of Cao Lanh in Tam Nong (Dong Thap province) is Tram Chim National Wetland Reserve (Tram Chim Tam Nong), which is notable for its eastern sarus cranes (Grus antigone sharpii). Over 220 species of bird have been identified within the reserve, but ornithologists will be most interested in the rare red-headed cranes, which grow to over 1,5m high. Seeing these birds, however, requires a considerable commitment (time. effort and money), so it's really for bird enthusiasts only.
The birds nest here from about December to June; from July to November they migrate to Cambodia, so schedule your visit to coordinate with the birds' travel itinerary if you want to see them. Also, the birds are early risers - early morning is the best time to see them, though you might get a glimpse when they return home in the evening. During the day, the birds are engaged in the important business of eating.

Tam Nong is a sleepy town 45km from Cao Lanh. The one-way drive takes about 11/2 hours by car; it's also possible to get there by boat. A speedboat takes only one hour, but costs USS25 per hour to rent. A slow boat can be arranged from Dong Thap Tourist. From the guesthouse in Tarn Nong it takes another hour by small boat (per hour US$15) to reach the area where the cranes live and another hour to return. Add to this whatever time you spend (perhaps an hour) staring at your feathered friends through binoculars (bring your own), and then the requisite one to four hours to return to Cao Lanh, depending on your mode of transport.
The state-run
guesthouse (r with fan US$10) in Tam Nong is just before the bridge, heading into town. It has extremely basic rooms; bring your own bug spray. Tam Nong shuts down early - if you want to eat dinner here, make arrangements before 5pm.