Monday, 24 January 2011

4 July 2001

Up at 6 for a bus to Cuc Phuong national park. The road was bad and the driver went like a maniac past paddy fields and tin shacks. After an hour the mountains appeared and then we were driving between the smaller peaks stopping occasionally for checkpoints.Bamboo huts began to appear scattered in the fields and then we arrived.

First was the Primate Centre where they have arange of gibbons and macaques some living free in a 1/2 km area along with small deer. Apparently they have a good interspecies thing going on, females of the gibbon and monkey groups groom each other and they ride on the deer like horses. They are in the enclosure as they are ready to be released into the wild but can't be until hunting stops in the area.The rerst of the priamtes are in cages but still amazing including one male who is the onlyu one of his kind in captivity.

Next we looked at turtles and tortoises, turtles have distinct fingers and a concave sternum but I missed a lot of species detail, luckily there are ID books.

Lunch was at a place in a nearby village where we ate outside under an awning. The heat sapped my appetite and the sight of raw meat left in the sun didn't help. The condiments included a small bowl of MSG with a wedge of lime.

After lunch we went to the visitors centre and it was a shock. A modern visitors centre like you might get in England in a place where people live in bamboo stilt houses, not because they are quaint but because they are poor.

Finally at 2 the Vietnamese finished their long lunch hour and we went to see the civets, which are a kind of carnivore and not normally shown to the public. Even as privelliged visitors we had to go in small groups to see one old male. They look like a cross between a cat and a weasel but are apparently unique.

Finally we went to the Rescue Centre, which is run by park rangers separately from the conservation project and has animals rescued from food markets. Only one man had a key so we had to wait. The animals have bare concrete cages and packing crates to sleep in. There are plans to put a bear in a space the size of a shower cubicle. On the way out we passed the old bear farm where the Park Manager used to keep bears to harvest their bile for medicine.

On the way back the air con was on and I slept a couple of hours. On waking I noticed the railway running between the road and the shops with no barriers at all before disapearing into a narrow side street.

In the evening several of us went out for the leaving do of one of the Vietnamese staff at a westernised restaurant called Mocha, where I had beef in sesame seeds then explored the town. It abolutely pissed down. I remember the phrase "rain will come and wash the filthy scum from the streets" but here it was literal allthe dog shit and rotting food washed into the gutters and away.

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