To break the long, 8 hour bus journey between Da Lat and Saigon (HCMC), we headed inland to Cat Tien National Park. We booked a bamboo shack just on the edge of the wild park where we relaxed for a couple of days.
Getting to the park from Da Lat
There are 2 options to get to Cat Tien National Park from Da Lat.
First option is booking a local minivan, which we ended up doing. The deal was cheap, around $7 each but the ride was rather disturbing. A van pulled in to pick us from the hotel and was already filled with people and boxes piled above our heads.
The driver was 1.5 hours late to pick us up and to compensate the lost time, he felt the need to unleash his inner racer. I was holding on for my dear life and desperately tried to relax thinking he knows what he’s doing and he knows where he’s going. I could see he is a pro driver, but still, those 4 hours were just too intense.
On top of that he kept picking up more locals even though there were no seats available. We were already squished like sardines in a can when we made another stop to pick up 2 massive baskets of fruit, just another day in Vietnam! The driver and everyone else on board were very friendly though.
The second option is to book a big bus. It’s more expensive, around $8 ($10 for a sleeper bus), but much more comfortable and less stressful.
The only inconvenience booking a bigger bus is that it drops you off on the main highway and from there you will need to grab a taxi to get to the national park. Taxi will cost you around $18. Unless you are prepared to walk 25 km.
The minivan however, drops you right next to the gate into the National Park. From here it was only 200 m stroll to our accommodation.
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Advice: If you decide to go with the local minivan, just trust the driver to drop you off in the right place. They will be stopping in lots of different spots to load and unload goods. Stop checking your Google Maps as it might seem like you are going way away from the national park. Don’t worry, you will most likely be the last person in the van to be dropped off.
Staying in a Bamboo Shack
Our stay at the Green Bamboo Lodge was very pleasant. Our bamboo shack was located at the end of the resort, with the terrace sticking out into the river.
The hut was clean and ready for our arrival. Our bed was comfortable, covered with a decent mosquito net, the shower room was clean with plenty of hot water.
The best bit, of course, was the terrace where we enjoyed our early mornings and sunsets. Due to the low season, some construction work was taking place in the resort, but the noise wasn’t too bad.
We had our breakfast included in the room rate which we enjoyed in an open restaurant. The food is ok, we just thought some of the portions were way too big.
The resort has 3 large dogs running around, but they are all friendly and very playful. They might follow you around and beg for some food from time time, but in general, they were fun to be around.
The staff are very nice. We had a lovely chat with the receptionist, but we felt a slight attitude from one of the staff due to refusing to book a tour into the park with them.
Booking a tour to explore Cat Tien National Park
There is a lot to see in the Cat Tien National Park and one of the ways to see things like the famous Crocodile Lake is by booking a tour. An all day tour costs around $50 per person and includes a Jeep ride, hiking, lunch and water.
The tour usually starts early in the morning at around 6.30 am until 4 pm. You will be able to book a tour through your accommodation.
Trekking in Cat Tien National Park
However, if you are on a budget like us, you can easily do a nice loop on foot. It all depends on how far you want to go and what you want to see.
Before setting out on foot, make sure you wear appropriate footwear, trousers, closed shirts and a hat. There are leeches lurking in the forest. Take lots of water with you, it’s very humid out there.
To reach the national park (if you are staying on the other side of the river), buy a boat ticket at the entrance (around $2) and go to the river bank to catch a local boat.
Once you cross the river, along the road to the left hand side you will find a tourist information office (Headquarters) where you can pick up a map in English. The map has a rough route with the distances indicated between the sights. It also has a brief description of each attraction.
However, we recommend using Google Maps and GPS on your phone if possible as the printed maps are quite vague and not to scale.
Start walking on the paved road until you see the first sign pointing to the forest. Follow the footpath marked with blue arrows and you will soon reach the giant Tung Tree.
Keep following the arrows to find the beautiful 5 topped Lagerstroemia Tree, the river rapids and other sights marked on the map.
The national park is home to hundreds of exotic birds which you may be lucky to spot on your way. There is also a Botanical Garden area full of endangered plants. If you don’t want to go into the forest, you can simply follow the paved path and enjoy your butterfly filled walk.
Exploring the park on a bike
You can also rent a bike, but you won’t be able to take it with you into the forest as the paths are too narrow and sometimes blocked with fallen trees.
Unless you only want to follow the paved path around the park, we don’t recommend hiring a bike. It seems like the bikes are slightly tired and broken. They will set you back around $5 per bike.
Is it worth visiting Cat Tien National Park?
In our opinion, visiting the park is a great way to break the long, 8 hour bus ride from Da Lat to Saigon. The park is very beautiful, green and pleasant.
We also enjoyed staying in the Green Bamboo Lodge as it felt like we managed to escape the beaten path for a couple of days. We enjoyed the quietness of the resort, but only, I assume, because of the low season.
We would recommend staying outside the national park as it’s just one boat ride away. Staying in the park is much pricier and not necessarily any better.
Green Bamboo Lodge on Google Maps:
Have you visited Cat Tien National Park? Where did you stay? Let us know in the comments below…
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