Fortunatel,y I remembered to never make a Vietnamese lose face. The reason for my suppressed anger was that the receptionist at the Ranger HQ and I had agreed that I would do an excursion through the jungle. Now, a couple of hours later, she told me that there were no guides available except for doing the same jungle trek that I had done this morning. I tried again: “maybe other guide want to go?”. Suddenly she smiled and said: “You can go without guide. We bring you by car into jungle and you walk to hut”. I confidently replied that “I had already walked alone this morning, so that it wouldn’t be any problem”. When I looked up to the map I noticed what was written next to a hand drawn picture of my destination “crocodile swamp”. I comforted myself that this probably was a trick to attract tourists with an exotic animal name. When I was about to leave, the friendly lady at the ranger station spoke again (she would have made Steve Jobs proud): “One more thing, be careful with the monkeys. When they’re about to attack, you should look them straight in the eyes”. Little did she know that few animals scare me more than monkeys. The reason can be summarized by ‘once bitten, twice shy’. Shortly afterwards, I found myself alone at the start of the trail. I quickly ‘armed’ myself with a big wooden stick and started practicing a semi angry look while looking an imagined monkey straight in the eye.
As I progressed through the jungle and approached the hut, I noticed a steady increase in poo on the track, it resembled human poo, just slightly different… So, I was mentally preparing myself for battling legions of monkeys. Moreover, a wise man once said: “just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you”. And paranoid I was. It is slowly approaching the end of the dry season and (big) leaves were falling down the trees, often taking a couple of extra leaves along. Together they resulted in a noise that could be anything from a monkey to a tiger to four leaves. Other noises low on the ground triggered a memory from many a Vietnam movie: the two-step-snake. Or was it three step? Or could I make five? Needless to say that what should have been a relaxing walk through the jungle turned into a continuous spine shivering goose skin live horror movie. When I finally arrived in one piece (without seeing a single monkey) an stunning open jungle with a lake in the middle suddenly made it all worth it.
The station’s rangers told me that it was possible to take the boat out onto the lake. I therefore decided to take a nap to be fit for the ‘greatest show on earth’. When I turned up to take the boatat 18.00 they told me that we would have dinner instead and that there were to many crocodiles in the lake anyway. I drew my conclusion quickly: my mini trip was cancelled because these guys didn’t want to move their dinner time! Despite my pleading they wouldn’t give in and I watched the sunset from the roof of the ranger station instead.
When the night started to fall a ranger brought a massive flashlight. He turned it on and quickly called for me. He pointed at the reflections in the water: a crocodile. Minutes later I had a try myself: as the torch over the swamp it lit up with at least a dozen pair of hungry eyes. I sighed of relief for not having taken the small canoe on my own. The ranger and I agreed that I would take out the canoe in the early morning, when “the crocodiles would be fast asleep”. Let’s hope that none of the has a sudden bout of insomnia like me now. A crocodile with insomnia is unlikely though, as a he/she probably wouldn’t be scared of finding a (poisonous?) frog in his toilet just before he goes to bed.