Within the last two school years of my life, I’ve had two major school year field trips, one for each year. In 8th grade, which would be last year, we had the chance to experience the bustling life of Hong Kong. It was an AMAZING blast, and an urban experience never before seen by us kids. On that trip, interestingly, I’ve discovered my romantic interest which still lasts today. However, the trip for 9th grade, is surely…an experience. Though it might not be something a city kid might expect, it was a change, and it might be a change that would satisfies you or the opposite. In matters of opinions, the trip and the experience we found was quite extraordinary. I mean…every field trip is about urban development, big metropolitans. Ask yourself a question. Is that enough for an experience of a field trip? My answer used to be a yes, but throughout the 9th grade trip, it gradually shifted to a no. It was a trip deep into nature, and it made me realized that I’m always part of nature, no matter where or how I live.
The destination for the trip was the widely known Cat Tien National Park which is a huge biodiverse forest located in Dong Nai, Lam Dong, and more counties. This is a huge area of some thousands of hectares of forests, and nature at its raw, natural form. At 8 A.M. on the morning of Wednesday, May 18th, everybody was finding themselves packed and ready-t0-go. We sang songs; played games; guessed locations; slept; had some bittersweet romance while sleeping (example below); and finding ourselves very comfortable. Approximately 3 hours following our departure from school, everyone was wide awake just to melt at their admiration for the beauty of nature we received at our arrival. The entrance of the National Park was a wide, and smooth river flowing as if it was a lazy snake. The river sparked the color of yellow brightly, and we wondered if it was the reflection of the sun or the color of the sediment. Nevertheless, we got off the tight bus, and began our first step…into the wild.
Here, the sound of motors are totally replaced by the sound of birds chirping, and of gibbons singing. We each carried two bottles of water with us, and walked down the road toward the boat that would carry us over to the National Park’s headquarters on the other side of the river. Ironically, the building we thought was the Park’s Headquarters were the Administration Office which seemed pretty deserted. It was creepy enough to bring the thought of a genocide into our minds. However, just a little down the road at the Headquarter was the reception for the Guest House we were staying at. After placing our heavy and back-aching backpacks at the reception office, we ran down to the cafeteria for some lunch which was awfully delish, consider the fact that we were deadly starving. Afterwards, everyone (was very full) climbed on the huge truck to start our hiking trip toward the Crocodile Lake. Which might not have been the best day of the trip, but it was the most bonding day of the trip. Hiking might not seemed very ideal, and we assumed that we were walking on a smooth, concrete road.
This was when the saying, “Expect the unexpected” fits the best because arriving at the beginning of the hike, we saw a little trail deep into the forest, and that was where we had to hike for 5km at.
The Hike was really something new because that would be the first time I single-handedly hike through a forest path as such. Though it was tiring, and Leech-filled, the whole package of experience was something worth receiving because it was a blast. And traversing the deep tropical forest allows you to feel like you’re part of it, and in fact, you are!
Finishing the 5km hike, we approached the Crocodile Lake Ranger Station dubbed hell of man by many from the trip due to the heat at day. The Ranger Station at the Crocodile Lake is also has small cabin and function as a motel, too. Talk about multitask! This place was wholly powered by Solar Panels which meant, No Air Conditioner, No Fans, just wind! This was when we realized we’re really into the wild now…
The complains turned horrifying when we saw the bathroom which was quite a sight of disgust, but a solution was there. We decided to not take the cabins and move to our teacher’s VIP lodges for the night. The boys stayed with our math teacher, Mr. Brandon while the girl was to sleep with Ms. Asmaa. After everyone showered, things started to take a turn for the better. Nighttime was approaching, bringing night breezes to the lodges, allowing everyone to be a bit relaxed, but some were still worried about sleep. Nevertheless, the sunset that day was an event of great awe to many of us. Everyone enjoyed the beauty of the sky as in dances into different colors of the rainbows. Clouds turned from blue to red, from red to orange, from orange to dark purple, then to pinkish violet, then to dark blue, and then finally, pitch black.
The thing about that dinner was that we had tons of food, but not tons of variety because all of the dishes were fish. Fish, fish, fish, fish, fish! The complains started to creep out from everyone’s mouths again which I felt was unnecessary because the Rangers had put in a lot of effort to cook such a great meal for us, and they deserved some respect. 8 P.M., things were already quite dark, Ms. Asmaa cried, “Crocodile Eyes, guys!” and immediately, the whole crew were out at the balcony. We used our flashlights to see the reflecting little orange crocodile eyes in the dark, and having a first-hand experience of something like that was out of this world.
When things turned into the darkness, we traveled around with flashlights in hand. The crew decided to retreat to their lodges, and opened their casino business. Obviously, we played for entertainment purposes only, but when midnight approaches, nobody seemed to be able to have some rest.
This partly stems from the creeps about the story of ghosts in the area, bugs and insects, and pure inability to sleep without fancy accommodations. At around 10, the whole crew (students only) gathered at the balcony in front of the lodge and got chairs together to reflect on our 9th grade year, what we enjoy about it, what we dislike it (despise, perhaps?), and predictions for the oncoming year. We also told each other what we enjoy about each other, and what we dislike about each other in terms of characteristics. It was truly the first time I observed such a close bond between all the 9th graders because throughout the whole year, all I saw was teasing, and no seriousness. As midnight arrived, everyone decided to lay down mattresses outside on the wooden balcony, and the whole group would sleep there. This might make us seem a bit messed up in the head, but it was actually very pleasant outside. Me and Tony P, however, wasn’t abled to put ourself into our dreams, and stayed to talk about ourselves and our lives. That was when I realized that the night sky here is heavenly compared to the polluted sky we have back in the urban areas. (Actually, Kevin was going to kill us cuz’ we let him join us…indirectly which he groaned about the whole following day…)
Early morning arrived, and everybody realized they won’t have enough energy for the day, but we kept our stern heads up. We thought the hike back would be a challenge, but in reality, it brought us a more energetic spark for the day, and it was over before we even knew it.
Climbing back on the bus that was to take us back to headquarters, I could swear I felt fair gusts of wind brushes my hair, and I knew that we’re really going to enjoy the trip. At around 12, we arrived at headquarters, and we checked in our initial room. Tony P was all tangled up in the stress because of his exhaustion, and I couldn’t blame him. Half an hour has passed, and Ms. Asmaa came with a sad announcement that Mr. Brandon’s son has been through a horrible illness in days, and was in need of his attention which meant that Mr. Brandon wouldn’t be with us for the rest of the trip which clearly brought sadness on everyone’s face. After having lunch at 2 A.M, we took a short tour at Wildlife At Risk Cat Tien. There, we instantly became experts on the topic of rehabilitation of bears and other animals. The W.A.R.’s leopard rehab center’s main leopard, Lucy, put up a great show for us as she hunts for her pray, a little live chicken Steven loved which actually fought with great bravery before his dying breath. The second day’s afternoon was over, and the moon was high upon our heads as we head out to the Night Safari following a wondrous dinner. Once again, I enjoyed the night breeze that splashes around my face and hair. We saw a pygmy loris (which was quite rare and spectacular), and many deers. It was quite shameful of me to sleep during the Safari though…Finally, we head to bed, but a little royal rumble happened between the boys which I at first decided to not join, but the ecstacy of fun led me to it. Kevin was being teased for…(cannot be named) reasons, and he started chasing everyone around so we locked ourselves in the room. Somehow, Kevin got to Kei alone, and they had a little romance together…
The Last Day
By now, everyone found a bit of excitement mixed within their exhaustion, but we went on a little trip to Dao Tien to visit Apes and Monkeys rescue center which we learnt a lot about, especially the poor and pitiful stories of the gibbons before they’re rescued and rehabilitated. However…it was time to say “au revoir” to Cat Tien National Park, and we headed home…But before I go, here’s something special for you guys!