After an almost 6-hour motorbike ride from HCMC, we had high expectations of getting close to nature, breathing the forest air and forgetting the city. Boy, did Cat Tien National Park Bungalows deliver!
We arrived without reservation and took a double room for only 690,000vnd, or roughly what a quaint boutique hotel would run you in downtown Saigon. But we were here for nature! We were not disappointed! I am NOT a biologist, so my species identification is not spot on, but I swear we had at least three kinds of forest molds growing on the walls, a door eating rot in the bathroom, a kind of rust on the towels (please let that be rust!), three or four species of wild ants, and what can only be described as an alien bug from 'Starship Troopers' bumping around off the peeling walls. (We managed to eco-consciously trap it between a water bottle and the wall, where it became someone else's problem.) Above all else though, was the full attention to all senses. A jungle predator must have recently vacated the room after marking its territory with urine, for our instinct to flee was instantly activated by the dank air.
The mosquito net did do the job to keep the wildlife out of our bed, thank you very much! Someone had carefully repaired the holes in it with band-aids. A nice touch.
Despite barely concerning the difference between inside and outside, we took a short nap only to be awoken to the screech of wild cats having sex outside our room. A horrible squeal and off-pitch drone permeated the air and seemed to amplify in our room. We opened the door to discover the culprits - a group of locals squawking karaoke mere meters from our room. It continued for hours and could be heard throughout the entire village area.
The water pressure and shower nozzle was enough to perhaps fill a small bucket - if you had enough time. But we only stayed one night. Showering was a long process, trying to rinse the suds off one quarter limb at a time.
We did take the Night Safari, and although we had a Vietnamese guide on spotlight lighting up the way and finding the occasional four-legged critter, there was little explanation as to what we were looking at - despite several capable translators on board. He didn't say a word the whole time, but he did wield a mean torch and machete. Nevertheless, guesses were made - "Was that a red panda?" -"No, I think it may have been a leopard." -"That was not a leopard." -"Maybe a baby leopard." Without really knowing who was right or wrong, we may have seen some deer, a civet cat, a kangaroo, an arboreal otter, a bird and some leeches.
Cat Tien is a nice place. But the accommodation and services offered would give you the impression they want to keep people out.