Summertime relaxation at Cuc Phuong National Park
Tamas Bay explores the wildlife at Cuc Phuong national park in the northern province of Ninh Binh.
With the arrival of summer and the hot weather, escaping the crowds and pollution of the city and embracing the scenic beauty of the Vietnamese countryside can make a refreshing alternative.
For those who have already visited seaside paradises such as Danang and Nha Trang, or those looking for a different kind of gateway, Trang An and Cuc Phuong national park have much to offer.
Often referred to as ‘Halong bay on land’ and proud holder of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Award since 2014, Trang An is both visually stunning and culturally rewarding. Home to Cuc Phuong national park and a resort of the same name, the area has so much to offer visitors that a weekend trip may not be enough.
Exploring the caves
After a quick bite for breakfast, we boarded the coach bound for Ninh Binh, a place of historical significance as the former capital of Vietnam. Leaving behind the stresses of work and noise of Hanoi, we arrived in Trang An within the hour, and were immediately struck by the beauty of our surroundings.
Before heading to our hotel we stooped to visit some of the caves the area is famous for. A friendly boatwoman gave us a warm welcome and we were soon kitted out with life jackets and safety instructions.
Many of the area’s caves are unbelievably long and wide enough for several boats to pass through at a time.
We visited Bright Cave and Dark Cave, both deserving of their names. Bright Cave allows for ample natural light to see every nook and cranny, while Dark Cave provides for a more chilling experience with its icy gusts and haunting shadows.
Cuc Phuong resort
Our memory cards filled with cave photos, the next leg of our journey took us to Cuc Phuong resort. The four star resort stands amongst the quiet of the national park’s ancient forest, offering a serene ambiance, fresh air and tranquility. A friendly staff member greeted us with a welcoming smile and took our luggage inside to the reception for check-in.
We were invited to take a tour of the resort by electric car before settling into our room. The resort has all many facilities, including an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool fed by hot mineral water from local well, a spa area, restaurant, a golf course, and a number of sports options.
An area known called the Ancient Gemstone garden caught our attention immediately. It is said that the largest boulder towering in the middle of the garden, which also forms the geographic centre of the resort, is not in fact stone, but an ancient tree that has fossilized over millions of years.
As we completed the tour, we were pleased to find our accommodation for the night was not the typical hotel style. Large, open bungalow built using ecofriendly materials and fully furnished with huge comfy beds, outdoor bathtubs, and glass showers provided luxury and comfort.
The park has limited dining option, with only a few villages nearby. However, the resort offers a decent variety of dishes, mostly Vietnamese. During our stay we enjoyed freshly frilled beefsteak and deep-fried goat with a bottle of Chateau la Croix de Moulin – a medium – bodied Bordeaux.
Cuc Phuong National Park
Checking out after breakfast, we were eager to visit Cuc Phuong national park before returning to Hanoi. The first national park to be established in Vietnam, Cuc Phuong boasts an astounding number of sights. We decided to visit the thousand-year-old tree lying 19km from the park entrance.
With few opportunities for car or motorbike rental, transportation is an issue here in the forest so we then ended up visiting the animal conservation centres provide homes for primates, pangolins, turtles, and small carnivores and allow visitors to get up close to the animals and take photos.
Although some of the more famous spots offer limited accessibility, visitors might still struggle to manage their scheduled since there are so many interesting places within reach: the cave of Prehistoric Man, Mong cave, Mac lake and Muong tribal villages can easily fill a weekend escape here.
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