Travel diary of 8 days with Malaysian friends
Our original 8-day itinerary, was a relaxing travel schedule and bird photography. Of course, the clients – friends – like me when traveling, want to achieve the main goal: to have pictures of beautiful birds, endemic and rare birds only on this trip, no can be found in other places, other countries.
Also, what do you want to get the most from a vacation? that is comfort and relaxation. You are already a photography enthusiast and nature lover, then experience many days away from crowded streets to come to nature, breathe deeply the fresh air, wild scenery and sounds. The sound of birds, frogs, mountains and forests … brings emotional levels, making you feel gone from daily distractions.
On this trip, I am traveling with 6 customers, there is a “leader” named Mrs Poon, a person with many years of experience in organizing tourism in Malaysia, she is with her husband and another friend, the second female member of the group.
The remaining 3 gentlemen love birds, are Huat, Lam and Chaw.
A short flight from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City, but having to get up early to get to the airport and customs procedures exhausted my friends, and until 11:30 am that day, the first day of the day On the trip, I just met all of you at Tan Son Nhat airport.
Go fill your stomach, that’s what I think as well as my friends who have just arrived in Vietnam for the first time. What to eat now? I have a long list of things I know are delicious, but my friend still especially likes “Pho”, one is the popularity of that dish associated with Vietnam, on the other hand, it’s the food easy to find, and quite easy to absorb when you come to a completely unfamiliar place.
A hot Pho noodle bowl with beef and a special aroma, the scent of natural herbs is skillfully mixed by the chef according to the proportions of experience. I was also really surprised that my friends could eat so well, they even ordered a few snacks such as lotus seed tea. The start of the trip like that was a good start.
We went straight from Ho Chi Minh City to Di Linh district, Lam Dong province. Di Linh Plateau is a plateau at an altitude of 600-1200m above sea level, with fertile red basalt soil, long eye-catching tea hills, green coffee plantations and mixed rows of durian trees straight.
The journey will begin with 2 days of photo shoot at Nui San Pass, one of the important hot-spots for bird enthusiasts.
We check-in at Thuy Duong Hotel, a small hotel, but with nice and clean interior. In the town of Di Linh, a relatively remote place, finding a high standard hotel is impossible, but the hotel makes you feel comfortable, this is a good address.
And also without wasting any time on the first day, we entered the forest on the first day. It was already 16:00 pm, and this was really good.
Just 2 hours at the end of the day, we had many beautiful photos of Silver-breasted Broadbill bird, a bird that is not rare but possesses an innocent and friendly beauty. . It is not easy to have beautiful pictures of this bird, in some places like Thailand, the photographers choosed their favorite bird’s nest position and take pictures. Here, bird-hide of Vietnambirds.net has completely succeeded in “inviting” them to come for a cool bath every day. In addition, we also took pictures of many other beautiful birds such as: Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-chinned Yuhina, Oriental White-eye, Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher, Indochinese Blue Flycatcher, and a brief visit by 3 individual Bar-backed Partridge.
Returning to the restaurant in a joyful mood for the first day of success, we had a full dinner with many Vietnamese-Chinese dishes and a European-style dish, especially to be enjoyed. Free artichoke tea, which has a rather strange but delightful taste about this herb.
Day 2, We went into the forest with joy after a light breakfast at the restaurant. We tried for the first time a new “beef stock”, a soup with beef and a creamy sauce, with carrots. Bread will be dipped into this sauce. You should try it!
It was a successful day, we went back to the exact bird-hide of the previous afternoon, and it was amazing that 28 birds could be photographed in a bird-hide. Including some endemic and charming birds such as Indochinese Green-magpie, Blue Pitta, Blue-rumped Pitta, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Black-headed parrotbill, …
With the “Pittas tour” goal, it seems like today we have reached 50% of the requirements, 2 Pitta species in the same bird-hide, we are really happy for that.
There is also a bit of annoyance, the bird-hide is not really comfortable to sit for long, the low seats and tight seats have made us tired, also hope these suggestions will be improved in the near future.
Lunch is served in person, at Nui San Pass, there is a small cafe with a very nice view, overlooking the mountain landscape. We spent 1 hour having lunch while enjoying Arabica here, the coffee is grown, harvested and processed on the spot, it was a pleasant experience to drink coffee right where it was grown and watch the Smooth green coffee fields dotted with white flowers.
On the 3rd day of the journey, we visited the 2nd bird-hide of Vietnambirds at Nui San Pass, about 4km from the first bird-hide by car, it took about 3 minutes to walk. This bird-hide may not seem as crowded as the first bird-hide, but in return we have a beautiful image of a Bar-backed Patridge, a pair of Blue Pitta, and a Collared Babbler.
In addition, there are also many beautiful birds such as: Orange-headed Thrush, Siberian Blue Robin, Gray-throated Babbler, …
We left the Nui San Pass hot-spot at 11:00am, moved to the 2nd point of the itinerary, Da Lat City.
After 2 hours driving, we arrived in Da Lat city, stopping at Datanla restaurant, a place with beautiful views of pine forest and waterfall. We enjoyed lunch here, and toast to all the fun we’ve had over the past 3 days.
According to Andy instructions, during lunch we keep the camera ready. And yes, when the lunch was about to end, a flock of Black-throated Tit birds visited, they gurgled to food finding in branchs just 5 meters away from our dining table, followed by two Indochinese barbet birds also fly in. What a busy and enjoyable lunch. We took a lot of pictures of 2 beautiful birds during lunch.
That afternoon, we were fortunate to have more photos of Langbian Sunbird, Dalat Shrike Babbler, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch and Blue whistling Thrush.
We check-in hotel at 18:00 pm, a clean and nice hotel in the city center: Dream Hotel.
If you are a birder, you will understand that often we have to get up early and leave the hotel while the other regular travelers are sleeping. So choosing the right hotel for birder is also a valuable experience. Sometimes the big hotels won’t be able to serve you breakfast at 5:00 am, but the birder-specific hotel is completely different. And the Dream hotel is such a hotel. We were at the table at 5:00 am, and everything was ready, breakfast with bacon and lots of delicious fruits like bananas, mangoes, rambutans, pineapples and apples.
On the 4th day of the journey, from Dream Hotel, we visited Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, with 45 minutes drive, we arrived at the first bird-hide.
Bidoup Nui Ba National Park is a place with a cool climate, sometimes causing you to feel cold because it is about 1600m above sea level, the time we visited is dry season, but early morning the forest is still wet like last night just raining.
There were 2 bird-hides just 5 minutes walk away, and we spent half a day in each place. It was a successful day with many beautiful birds such as: Gray-bellied Tesia, Lesser Shortwing, Pygmy Wren-babbler, Rufous-throated Partridge, Indochinese Green Magpie, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Collared Laughingthrush, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Rufous browed Flycatcher, Black-crowned Fulvetta, Indochinese Fulvetta, Gray-throated Babbler, …
But our goal, the Rusty-naped Pitta, is yet to show up, which is a sad wait and makes us feel the need to eat well to make up for it.
Dinner 2 in Da Lat city, we were introduced to Andy a dish never known “Bun Dau Mam Tom” and “Banh Da Cua”. We are also very curious and want to try these strange things, but as warned by the tour guide “shrimp paste” is something that few people can eat easily.
Surprisingly we liked its strong flavor, Rice vermicelli noodles is a mixture of vermicelli, tofu, pork, spring rolls and a variety of cilantros . You will use “rice paper” to roll them and dab on “shrimp paste”. Andy showed us how to enjoy this dish, and we were really crazy about this dish, it was so stimulating.
The Banh Da Cua is easier to eat, it’s a type of rice noodle noodle, cooked with a crab and shrimp broth. Vegetables served with 3-4 types are chopped and boiled with boiling water.
After dinner, we visited “Dalat night market”, it was surprising that it was very crowded and bustling at night. Andy always reminds us to take care of our bags and wallets, jostling here is very convenient for thieves to take action.
We walked around the market for about 45 minutes, a lot of items displayed in a wide variety of colors, from clothes, shoes, souvenirs to snacks. Tropical fruits are also sold a lot, in addition to traditional teas and fruit jams …
On the 5th day of the journey, we returned to the old bird-hide in hopes of taking beautiful pictures of the Rusty-naped Pitta bird, but it was a long rainy day, not heavy rain, we waited patiently. But the target never appeared. After lunch, Andy took us to visit a forest near the national park’s management center, a type of pine forest. And we had a complete afternoon and afternoon with many beautiful birds in this Hot-spot.
A special bird-hide when worms are not used as food for birds, Andy says that he has experience in attracting and inviting birds to bathe. This Bird-hide is a location like that. We have many beautiful pictures of endemic birds such as Red Crossbill, Vietnamese Greenfinch, Black-naped Oriole, Chestnut vented Barbet, Green-backed Tit, Long-tailed Minivet … when they come to bathing. One tip is that you should take a photo before they jump in the shower, because after a bath the feathers will get wet and no longer beautiful.
Day 6 is another great morning with a new location – Ta Nung Valey for 2 endemic bird species: Gray-crowned Crocias and Vietnamese Cutia. The birds are not in “bird-hide”. However, with the good fortune of the weather and Andy’s enthusiasm, we have captured beautiful photos of these two species of birds that are only distributed in the Langbian plateau.
Some other birds, such as Rufous-backed Sibia, Speckled Piculet, Bay woodpecker, Black-headed Sibia … are also seen, however the picture taken will not be as good as the bird-hide.We left Dalat at noon, after 3 hours of driving, we checked-in at Cat Tien National Park.
Cat Tien National Park is a popular destination for wildlife tourism and bird watching, and was also the end of our journey, with the primary goal of beautiful shoots photos of Bar-bellied Pitta birds. Also, more birds, the better!
Our hotel is at the entrance of the National Park, Geen Bamboo Hotel, with a romantic view overlooking the banks of the Dong Nai River. The restaurant is also very nice with a lot of tourists. The food here also really enjoyed us.
Late that afternoon, we went for a walk along the main trail of the park, with many beautiful tropical birds such as Orange-breasted Trogon, Black and Red Broadbill, Banded Kingfisher, Common Iora, Blue-winged Leafbird, Yellow- vented Flowerpecker …When it was almost dark, the Great-eared Nightjar appeared in the sky. In addition, we also took beautiful photos of two other owls, Asian barred Owlet and Collared Scops Owl.
We got up early on the 7th day of the journey, because we didn’t want to miss the moment when we heard the gibbons sing, there were some groups of gibbons very close to the Headquarter Center of the park, some wild and some in large cage. They are being feeding in semi-wild cages waiting to be released back to the wild. Early in the morning, when the sun does not appear but the rays of light on the horizon stimulate the Gibbon to sing, they have certain songs and tones. The dominant male will sing first to the beat, then the female will chime along, many times like that, the song resounds throughout the forest.
We walked for a while, then took more pictures of this gibbon, the Yellow-cheeked Gibbon, a species found only in southern Vietnam and the threatened species in the IUCN Redlist.
After breakfast, we spent the whole day at 2 bird-hides in Cat Tien National Park, they are quite close and only takes about 5 min walk. The morning was quite successful as we fired up the shoot with a beautiful pair of Bar-bellied Pitta, then came Green-legged Partridge, Abbott’s Babbler, Scaly-crowned Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler also showed up and scrambled the foods.
Then we moved on to the 2nd bird-hide, with lots of other small birds like Yellow-striped Bulbul, Streak-eared Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul, Pale-legged Leaf-warbler, Black Drongo , Greater racket-tailed Drongo, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, …
Then suddenly a great target appeared, it was a large and majestic male of Germain’s peacock pheasant, and we were first seen and photographed so we were excited about this endemic bird. In the late afternoon, there were more female of Germain’s peacock pheasant showed, and another flock of Siamese Fireback. These colorful pheasants are very voracious, but are very afraid of the smaller Red-junglefowl. They buzz and run when the Red-junglefowl appear.
When the light faded, it was when the Blue-rumped Pitta jumped out, it stood for a long time in the bushes to observe, now is really their time, it is free to eat the remaining worms. We had so many pictures of this bird on the first day when we in Bird-hide at Di Linh, but it’s a little different here. The bird seemed a bit smaller and the color was not as vibrant. It made us feel the need to take more photos, as they were clearly not the same thing.
Moments later the Blue-rumped Pitta ran so fast, surprising us because we didn’t understand what happened to him. It turned out, it was an unpleasant visit by Slaty-legged Crake, it drove away Pitta and took control. We took more photos and returned to our room. It’s been a successful day for any birder!
The last night of our journey, we spent more time chatting and drinking beer than we did about birds. There are many other birders are here, and there has been a bit of talking between us. Most of them are happy because these are the early days of their journey. As for us, tomorrow is the end of the 8-day bird-watching tour in Vietnam.
Early morning of the 8th day, the last day of the journey. We used the Park’s Pick-up to move to Grassland. It was a beautiful morning, everything was cool and pleasant and you did not feel the stuffy heat like when the sun was high.
We came across a few Green Peafowl, which were quite large, the male had a long tail and a very majestic-looking fan-shaped crest. However, they are very shy, when the car just stopped, they quickly disappeared into the bushes. In addition, there are a number of other birds also present in this area such as: Green Imperial Pigeon, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Red-collared Dove, Black-hooded Oriole, Lesser Coucal, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Dollard bird, Indian Roller, Blue-bearded Bee-eater …
We returned to the restaurant for lunch at 11:00 am, a little earlier than usual. Then check-out and return to Hochiminh City.
The journey took 4 hours by car, and we were invited by friend Andy to have another meal with a delicious and delicious beef-hotpot dish in Bien Hoa city.
It was a journey of 8 days, it went by very quickly, we had little gifts from Andy, beautifully packaged artichoke tea packages. The main goals of the trip are fulfilled, we have many beautiful bird photos in Vietnam for the first trip. However, there’s still one big goal we’ll have to go back to, the beautiful bird we’ve always wanted to have: Rusty-naped Pitta.