When making the journey from Ca Mau, the southern tip of the country, to U Minh Ha (lower U Minh) Forest, the largest mangrove swamp in the country, tourists may get lost in the endless white color of lau (reed) flower in the paths.
Ca Mau, the harmonious picture of forest and sea, is famous for its verdant mangrove forests and bird sanctuary, as well as the eco tourism areas of U Minh Forest and Hon Da Bac Island. However, the land here is heavily alum affected and rice is difficult to grow, resulting in a hard life for the residents.
Reed flowers provide an income for the resident. Many local households weave them into brooms to sell around the Mekong Delta. Thus, in the dry season, every yard is overwhelmed with reeds.
However, not all the residents have resigned themselves to a life of poverty. In the immense forest a 47-year-old man named Tran Trung Quoc tried to make a better living by building a bird yard in a 96ha tram forest.
The bird yard, thanks to Quoc’s efforts and sweat, now features thousands of birds including stork, heron and cork. He also grows thousand of plum trees which originated in An Phuoc, Dong Nai Province along canals. The harvest of plum last year earned him VND80 million.
In addition, he has turned his small house near the edge of the forest into a small restaurant with typical dishes of tram forest’s specialties, and in front of his house are sixty areca trees from which the bees make honey.
Therefore, heading here, tourists not only can enjoy local specialties but also can buy honey of the tram forest.
Quoc sails a small wooden boat everyday through immense reeds immersed in mist on the Cai Tau River heading to U Minh District to pick up his visitors. Seven of us were eager for tasty dishes of forest; we had trekked through the forest and taken a boat trip following a black Crypsirina temia, khach bird flying on top of tram trees.
With dishes made from trout fish, lotus snake and cum cum bird in the forest cuisine, we really sensed the soul of tram forest and the sacred sentiments between guests and Quoc and between us.
To travel the more than 100km from Ca Mau to the tip of the country, cars have to take a ferry-boat and drive over seven bridges. We decided to hire a canoe, which was priced VND8 million. The trip was worth it, as we could experience Ca Mau in the sunshine and on the sea, and try the simple dishes of tram forest.
Without saying a word, we were immersed in the sensations of travelling in a canoe, the small wooden boat and hearing the soft melodies of a classical songs sung by a water-vendor.