THE MEKONG DELTA || CAO LANH AND AROUND
West of My Tho, and Cai Be, Highway 1 crosses the My Thuan Bridge on its way to Vinh Long and Can Tho. Just before the bridge, however, at An Huu, Highway 30 branches north, rolling into modest CAO LANH 34km later. The town is no oil painting and offers little unless you’re charmed by wading birds; its location beside the western edge of the Plain of Reeds makes Cao Lanh an ideal launching pad for trips out to the storks and cranes that nest in the nearby swamplands. Coming from Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll pass the two great concrete tusks (intended to resemble lotus petals) of the war memorial as you veer onto the main drag, Nguyen Hué. One tusk bears a hammer and sickle, the other a Vietnamese red star.
Tram Chim National Park
Of the 220 species of birds nesting at Tram Chim National Park (previously called the Tam Nong Bird Sanctuary), it’s the sarus cranes, with their distinctive red heads, that most visitors come to see, though numbers have sadly declined drastically in recent years, and there’s not much to be seen outside the months of December to May. In flight above the marshland of the sanctuary, the slender grey birds reveal spectacular black-tipped wings. Cranes feed not from the water but from the land, so when the spate season (July–Nov) waterlogs the delta, they migrate to Cambodia. Visiting the park, however, can be very expensive (over $100 per day for a small group), so this is a trip for committed bird enthusiasts only: if you’re keen, ask at the office of Dong Thap Tourist in Cao Lanh for details.