I’ve always thought it would be fun to sleep in a bamboo hut. By watching shows like Gillian’s Island or the musical South Pacific, a thatched roof hut located next to azure water with waves lapping at my door seemed both relaxing and romantic. So, when the opportunity to book two nights at the Bamboo Green Lodge next the Dong Nai River bordering the Cat Tien National Park – one a Vietnams’s “must see” sights according to Lonely Planet – seemed like a dream come true.
After cycling yesterday for over 54 kilometers I was hot, tired and just not in the mood to go much further. Just then, we approached a small village with a large sign saying “Cat Tien National Park.” I knew we must be close.
Around the next bend was a beautiful green structure that looked like it could be the reception area for a hotel or guest houses. It looked promising: new and clean. We walked our bikes up the steep entrance (by this time we were too hot and tired to pedal) and asked a man if this was the Bamboo Green Lodge. He said “no” and pointed us across the street to a cart path. I thought I read “pity” in his eyes when he said, “500 meters.” He looked askance and mentioned that we were welcome to come have a drink and/or dinner at his hotel later that evening.
As we cycled down the path it got bumpier and my heart sunk further. We passed roosters caged up ready for cock fights and small huts with men sleeping in hammocks and trash…lots of trash.
I was just about ready to throw an “on-line” booking to the wind and head back to the newer- looking hotel when we arrived at the end of the path.
“Bamboo Green Lodge,” we asked, mustering up a small amount of enthusiasm. “Yes,” a young man answered with a smile.
We were ushered to a bamboo hut that served as a reception area outfitted with a two steel chairs and a laptop on a table at the side near a man sleeping in a hammock. We were offered a glass of sweet lemon aid, which I downed in one gulp, and completed the usual check-in procedures. (mostly passport and visa information).
Our host led us down the flagstone (and mostly dirt) path, towards our lodging while my bamboo hut dream was being shattered.
Here’s my MY vision of a bamboo hut: cute bamboo exterior with front porch and comfortable deck chairs for sipping wine and watching the sunset, modern, bright, cheery interior with plenty of outlets for charging an excess of electronics, a high quality latex or pillow-top mattress, with choice of soft or firm pillows, 800 thread count 100% cotton sheets, plush carpet, air-conditioning, granite or marble bathroom with enclosed shower and modern fixtures and sound-proof walls.
Here’s local Vietnamese version of a bamboo hut: the bamboo exterior is also the bamboo interior with gaping holes between the posts, a bamboo bed frame with a 4-inch mat on top, a bamboo shelf that tilts to one side because it falls between the bamboo floor slats, a bamboo window shutter that is propped open with a bamboo pole, and a ceramic tile bath area with a blanket that can be pulled across the opening to serve as a door, an attempt to put mosquito netting 3/4 of the way up the exterior walls except for the wall with the door and the window and mosquito netting covering the flooring minus a few places where the netting has gaping holes.
Obviously, our visions differ – mine is based upon fantasy and theirs is based upon years of experience.
On a more positive note, the owners are very nice. They brought us cold beer and quietly left us to pass the afternoon reading a little and snoring a lot in the conveniently located hammocks outside our hut.
After a good nap, I was able to accept the fact that $20 in Vietnam was not going to buy “glamping”. And, I was able to look around and appreciate what our money did buy.
Our bamboo hut is quiet. No trucks honking, no loud music playing, no Vietnamese men clearing their smoker’s throats and spitting big ones at 6:00 am. Our bamboo bed is comfortable and we both slept well. And, the setting along the river is peaceful. The evening was quiet with just enough soft noise to lull us to sleep. The morning was slow to begin and we woke to the gentle chirping and chattering of many unknown-to-me species of birds. (Makes me almost want to read Audubon but not quite.)
The Bamboo Green Resort may not be Gilligan’s Island, but it is a kind of paradise.