Monday, 14 January 2013

Day trip to Can Gio (Monkey Island)

Ferry across the Mekong
There are only so many day trips which are doable from Saigon and, having lived in the area for 18 months now, we have done most of them.  There was one, however, which had eluded us - Can Gio.  In fact, we had booked it on two previous occasions, but circumstances (overbooking and then underbooking!) conspired against us and we were unable to go.  So, a couple of weeks before Christmas, we decided to try again and this time we were successful!!

We left the city in an old four-wheel drive - six paying guests squeezed into the back and the driver and our English-speaking guide up front.  Our fellow passengers were three Taiwanese people, two Saigon residents and their guest, and a very chatty single Australian lady who had told us her entire life story before we had gone very far!

We drove south out of the city for about two hours.  It's only 50 kilometres or so, but the roads are not the best and the traffic slowed us down.  Then it was a short ferry crossing of the Mekong Delta and we were on Can Gio Island.  Here, the roads were wide, well-maintained and free of traffic.  Our guide told us that it is the location of choice for wealthy Vietnamese to retire to and we certainly saw some very nice-looking villas.

Don't know why they were wearing helmets!
Our first stop was on the coast where we watched some local fishermen dredging the sand after the tide had gone out.  They were after scallops and other crustaceans.  Only a short walk from the beach, we visited a fish market where we saw a huge variety of these creatures.  We were shocked to learn that the enormous oysters on display were going for the princely sum of 15,000 VND (about 50 pence) a kilo!  Our guide explained that they are not popular so do not attract a very high price.  We suggested a business opportunity for him, but I don't think he believed us when we told him what prices they might fetch in Europe!

From there, we went to a beach resort for lunch, after which we had time for a swim and a bit of sunbathing.  It was so good to cool off after the heat of the market and we vowed to check out transport possibilities that would enable us to spend weekends there.

Our final stop of the day was 'Monkey Island' itself, the nature reserve which gives Can Gio its name.  The reserve consists of 80,000 hectares of mangroves and water coconut trees.  Formerly, the area was home to a wide range of wildlife, but most of it was eaten during the American War (according to our guide) resulting today in a dearth of native fauna.  There are now only a few saltwater crocodiles being kept in capitvity whereas a few years ago there were thousands.  The only creature which hasn't disappeared is the monkey.  There are a couple of thousand residing in a small area and it was a little disconcerting stepping between groups of them as we walked through the reserve!

After our walk, we had a ride in a motor boat through the mangroves to see a base used by Viet Cong fighters during the war.  The various sleeping, eating, and meeting huts are linked by very dodgy bamboo walkways and, to be honest, I was more concerned about falling through one of these than in what I was seeing around me!

Don't be taken in by those eyes!
On returning to the entrance to the reserve, we were told that we would be heading straight back to Saigon, so we all took the opportunity to use the facilities and buy a drink and a snack for the journey.  I went to the shop to buy a beer for Mark and an ice-cream for me and was heading back to our vehicle when it happened.... I was viciously attacked by a rather large male monkey!!  He was single-minded in his intention to have my ice-cream and came running at full pelt from out of the trees!!  He came from behind me and I had no inkling until he had jumped on my back and grabbed on to my arm.  Instinct kicked in and I threw him off me.  He landed on his back and appeared to be winded, but recovered quickly and ran off with my ice-cream!  I was left with a very muddy shirt, scratches up my arm and a bleeding finger where he had sunk his teeth into me!  I still bear the scars - a lasting reminder of my day trip to Can Gio!

You can see more of my photos of Can Gio here.

1 comment:

  1. Monkey Island such a really nich Island, there are also awesome beaches. I really like it.

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