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Published: November 19th 2012
we made it!
After a bit of a challenging way to the train station, we were finally ready for a new challenge
Fellow travelers agree, even on the road, sometimes you need a break.
After getting back to Ninh Binh (Sadie, trying to outsmart the bus driver, ended up getting us screwed over, so we had to walk about 4 km to the station this time, with all our gear) we caught the train leaving shortly after for Dong Hoi. The train ride was a long 9 hours, and in the rush to catch a train that we wouldn't have to sleep on, we neglegted to ask for anything better than hard seats.
And when they say hard, they mean it. It was everything we expected: sticky, uncomfortable, hot and dirty, but we loved it. Everyone was really friendly, we met a charming mother and daughter and managed to talk to them for a while (a combination of Vietnamese, sign language and the phrasebook) and exchanged snacks and showed each other pictures of our lives. All the attendants were super nice (in retrospect they probably thought we were nuts for sitting there in the first place) and we really enjoyed our ride. The views of the countryside around Vinh were also very beautiful.
Phong-Nha Farmstay was our next destination, and
There is nothing that makes Øyvind more sleepy then the monotone sound of a train on the move
we were lucky enough to get a room, and they arranged for us to get picked up late that night in Dong Hoi. Already from that first phone call, we knew we were in for a treat.
The Farmstay was everything we were hoping for, a chilled out place, both social and realxing, an oasis for travelers and expats, offering everything one could need for an amazing trip to Phong-Nha Ke Bang National Park. The staff are a mixture of locals and travelers-on-a-pause, and we immediately felt taken care of, like coming home for the holidays. No one to try and scam us, or sell us a ton of things we didn't need, just fun to be had and people to meet.
We ended up booking four nights, in order to both do the bycicle tour and the park tour we had heard so much about, which included a visit to Paradise Cave. Our stay included two days of lounging, hanging by the pool, and drinking incalculable amounts of ca phe de da (black iced coffee) and ca phe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) - the wonderful Vietnamese brew that has by now become an addiction.
.. and relax. At least that is what the locals are doing
Not to ruin the magical surprise the Farmstay's tour of the park has in store, we will merely mention the immensity of Paradise Cave, and its beauty beyond explanation. On the tour, we jumped off rocks into the river, kayaked, and even joined the locals for an impromptu game of volleyball, amongst other things. It was a blast!
The Farmstay was a much-needed breath of fresh air, and it was great to finally be able to ask people many of the questions we had been asking ourselves about Vietnam. The area is developing fast (there was construction everywhere we went), so we can imagine, should we get back there in 5 years, it will be completely changed.
It was hard to leave, but we were starting to rack up quite a bill, as well as we could feel that we were getting a bit lazy from being so well taken care of. They booked our train to Danang (and our taxi from Danang into Hoi An as well!) and we finally said goodbye. Go if you can, and make sure you come from somewhere busy, noisy, and slightly dangerous. You won't regret it!
Living creatures in
These two, mother and daughter, was siting opposite us on our way. We shared food, experiences and lack of knowing the other parties language
the rooms: huge spiders, geicos, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, and tiny little bugs, though we have no idea what they were 😊
Questions answered about Vietnam:
- Why do so many men have long fingernails, sometimes only one?
- It is a sign of status, showing they do not need to do manual labor (yeah, yeah, Sadie was right)
- What are those weed-like things that people are pulling up from the river?
- They are used as a natural fertilizer
- Why are there small cemeteries everywhere?
- The Vietnamese believe one should be burried with their family, and there is no form of communal cemetery, so people burry their relatives on their land.
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