When photographer Rodney suggested we go to Giang Dien on the King’s Day public holiday, where there was a waterfall he knew we could swim in, I didn’t have to think about it for long.
Setting off, I had a second reason to get excited. This would be the maiden voyage of my new toy, the Lifan 125 I’d just bought from a Swiss guy, who’d driven it down from Hanoi. As keen as I was to stretch the legs of my new steed, it was still a relief when after 45 minutes of dusty, busy highway, we turned off the northbound QL51, by-passing Dong Nai’s provincial capital of Bien Hoa, and into the area where Giang Dien Park is.
The pay-off to road travel in this country can be sweet, and arriving at the grounds, I was filled with optimism. To me it looked exactly the type of space expats would love, if only it were closer to the city. It’s a shame, but ultimately not enough people explore these simple-to-find places independently.
After parking and paying entry, a tree-lined cobblestone path led us up to a campground featuring man-made lakes, postcard perfect bridges and rotundas adjacent to fields of well-maintained grass. Rare. All of it added up to what we agreed was very date-friendly territory, and there were plenty of couples doing just that.
For the most part, however, it was families and teenagers having a great time. Smiling freely and dripping wet in jeans slipping below boxer shorts, a group of the latter approached us as we neared the hub of the park. In possession of that ubiquitous item, the selfie-stick, we managed to get our heads in several group shots. It was funny, an hour ago we were just another couple of white guys in the city, yet here we were, beacons of curiosity and intrigue.
Continuing on, I was anxious to see this waterfall that had been promised me, and I’m happy to say, after checking out the various levels of accommodation on offer — you can stay here in anything from a tent raised off the floor by a timber deck, to a three-star fibro hut — that my new travel buddy delivered.
Watched on by the ever-vigilant lifeguards, after rounding a couple of corners and gradually blending into our new environment, there before me was a perfectly swimmable, cascading waterfall and lake. It looked hectic at first, speckled by dozens of bright orange Vietnamese swimmers in mandatory life jackets, but there was no way I wasn’t going in.
Not wanting to waste any more time in the stifling heat, beers were soon ordered, bamboo recliners were located and paid for, and, satisfied that we’d done sufficient exploring of the nature park all around us, we settled down in the shade for what was a very chill, very relaxing time, swimming between drinks and chatting about the vagaries of what had brought us, and keeps us here in this country, garnering some local attention as we went about it.
At first reluctant to don the luminous life-jacket, two Heinekens in, it was very much a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, and before too long I was loving it, swimming and climbing over the waterfall’s rocks, chatting with locals and wholeheartedly enjoying being part of such a fun and innocent atmosphere. Completely refreshed, it was just the break from routine that we both needed.
Mindful of the highway journey home, we soon cut ourselves off and headed back to the big smoke.