Pointing at the dense cajuput forest, the canoe steersman Tran Van Ut Nho said, “We will cross it,” which gave his passengers a thrilling start.
It rained quietly on the approach to the cajuput forest. Some storks perched on the floating mass of hay. Right in front of the canoe, now and then a fiery stork with a bright red crest would beat its wings, quacking away. Then a flock of little cormorants flew gracefully along the forest’s edge and perched on a branch, eyes opened wide, looking curiously at the intruders.
Tourists in the canoe cheered, “Birds, birds, how wonderful!” Ut Nho said sympathetically, “No, not yet, it will be ‘more’ wonderful inside the forest.”
The high grasses were getting denser at the canoe’s bow, on the water’s surface. The grass tangled around the propeller, making the engine stop suddenly, releasing short hopeless gurgling sounds. Putting the propeller away, Ut Nho managed to push the canoe ahead with a long pole, punting against the ground underwater.
The cajuput forest was extremely sturdy. The canoe wove its way amongst cajuput trunks. Ut Nho pushed the canoe from behind, while Tran Dai, the guide, bent at the boat’s prow to strike off ruffled cajuput branches that seemed to enjoy blocking our way.
The flood season is also the time the cajuputs bloom – their white blossom spreading an enchanting fragrance.
The high waters, of over three meters, lifted the canoe halfway to the treetops. It was no difficulty to touch the cajuput flowers, trying to swing around cajuput trunks, taking photographs and falling in line with the magnificent sweet-scented environment.
A benign land
In a sparse area, after around one hour of squeezing through the thick forest, Ut Nho signaled tourists to keep silence. Emerging from the rustling sounds of leaves were the “voices” of birds softly communicating with each other.
Penetrating the area’s center, thousands of birds assembled upon cajuput branches that pointed to the sky. They perched everywhere, on the tops, trunks, branches and even broken branches of cajuput trees.
Bird nests hanging from cajuput tree tops (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
Numerous bird nests hung on the trees. The birds showed no signs of caution or fear of the presence of tourists. They flew spontaneously, jumped, and sang, even descended to branches in front of the canoe.
Many snow-white birds sat in their own nests. Some tourists had birds’ droppings fall on their heads, or birds’ eggs plop down in front of the boat. In the meantime, photographers made their own achievements by getting unique shots of Tram Chim’s beautiful flying habitants, without strenuous climbing or spying.
The birds there are confident and friendly thanks to the thorough protection they enjoyed. Birds settle themselves in the cajuput forest all year round, while cranes only return to feed in the dry season. As this time of the year was the breeding season for birds, the forest was especially noisy, lively and crowded with diverse generations of birds.
Wild rice in Tram Chim
Apart from wild birds, tourists can also bear witness to the treasured fields of wild rice, called lua ma or lua troi by locals, where rice plants stand high like flame-grass, with milky-white rice ears swing in the wind.
Wild rice grows and flourishes in nature, without human care, and adapts itself perfectly to this environment. The higher the floodwaters rise, the taller the plants grow. When the paddy is ripe, local people simply row their boats to the plants’ side and strike the rice ears to make grains fall into the boat.