Posted by: Richard Marshall | May 18, 2010

Family Holiday Part 1: HCMC and Cat Tien National Park

Binh Thay

Binh Thay Market

After a few months of neglect I guess it’s time for another update! My parents came to Vietnam for a visit in April so I’ve actually been pretty busy. The first few days after they arrived we wandered around HCMC looking at all the, to me, quite familiar sights of District 1. It was incredibly hot and I’ve become really unused to walking around the city since I got my bike so I was surprised how tiring it was, but it was interesting to see the city through newcomer’s eyes again. The new thing we managed to do in the city was head down to District 5 where I had never been. Back in the colonial period the place was known as Cholon and was mostly inhabited by Chinese. Although the tourist brochures insist the place retains some kind of Chinese identity today it looked pretty much the same as the rest of the city to me. No doubt I should explore it more thoroughly but the heat and chaos and generally uninviting surface appearance are as always a bit intimidating. Binh Thay market was very interesting, though. It’s housed in an impressive colonial building and is less of a tourist trap than Ben Thanh. It was also full of bizarre merchandise for my parents to take a look at. We also visited a pagoda which claimed to be two hundred years old and quite possibly was. It was a bit garish and hot and smelly as most Vietnamese pagodas are but certainly did have a certain charm. Otherwise we managed to eat plenty of good food and drink plenty of Vietnamese beer. We had a very pleasant evening with my colleagues and I even took the folks to the scummy bar I frequent in the backpacker district!

Pagoda D5

After a few days in HCMC we headed up to Cat Tien National Park. We got a sort of tour company to take us which meant that transport was easy – if we hadn’t taken a car we’d have needed to go by bus and then motorbike which would have been a real pain. From what I’d read of the park I’d imagined it to be on the point of collapse, but that certainly didn’t seem to be the case when we got there. There’s a good infrastructure of accommodation around the main camp, good roads, and we went birding with a very knowledgeable guide. The park was very dry and very hot but also really beautiful – it’s always such a revelation to find the great outdoors in Vietnam! We did a lot of birding and saw a number of really exciting new species. I got a glimpse of a wild peacock and a good look at the wild ancestor of the chicken. We also saw a good selection of barbets, broadbills, woodpeckers etc. There’s not a great deal of animal life in the park except in it’s deepest recesses, but we did also see a couple of Sambur deer and a group of huge wild cattle called Gaurs. The cottages were comfy and the food was fine and it’s definitely a park I’d recommend to anyone travelling around Southern Vietnam. We then went back to HCMC for a night before heading north, but I’d write that up in the next post.

Cat Tien

Impressive Tree


  1. Looks/sounds like a fabulous trip. I’m glad you guys had such a good time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: