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Published: January 23rd 2018
We took the public bus from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, which took us about 2.30 hours. The bus was very full. Shaun ended up at the very front while Victor and I were at the very back. There was music and videos on a small screen... We were surprised (to say the least) to see that, on the screen were displayed pictures of naked women... We had never seen anything looking a lot like porn in a PUBLIC bus before and it was pretty disturbing!
We arrived in Ninh Binh, where we took a taxi to Tam Coc, where we had decided to stay. We stayed in the first hostel we saw, which was cheap but not very clean and were the owner's son was interestingly rude...
It was still quite early so we had a walk around the lake. Tourists were taking boat tours and we noticed that the people paddling on the boats were using their legs to paddle! It's apparently one of the qwerky things about Tam Coc, we were very impressed! Afterwards, we rented bikes and, after lunch, we cycled to a cave and through the rice fields and huge rock formations. It was a shame the
sky was so grey because this place is amazing. It's one of the most beautiful places we've seen so far. It is called the terrestrial Ha Long Bay, as the rock formations and limestone islands look a lot like Ha Long Bay (which we intend on visiting soon), but here you can see most of it while on land.
When the sun started setting, we cycled back and went for dinner. One of the speciality here is grilled goat so Victor, Shaun and I shared a plate. It was quite nice.
In the evening, Shaun and Victor stayed in the bar downstairs while I went to bed.
On the next morning, we left around 11am for yet another cycling day. We cycled aimlessly through more rice fields and rock formations for a few hours then went to Trang An, where we had lunch. At about 3pm, we hopped on a boat for a tour of the Trang An caves. It lasted for more than two hours and a half. The woman paddling was using her arms (we weren't in Tam Coc anymore, after all) and didn't speak a word of English but we had an amazing time. It was beautiful
and peaceful. Some of the caves were very low so we had to duck down. Everything was so beautiful, the rock formations are an amazing sight. We stopped a few times to visit temples on the river and hike up some hills. We helped the woman paddling from time to time as Shaun and Victor wanted to race with some other tourists on other boats. When we finished the tour, it was very dark so we had to ride back using the big road rather than the unlit muddy paths through the rice fields. It took us a bit longer and was a bit stressful as we had no light and were worried some of the drivers couldn't see us (we were all wearing dark colours and not all of our old bikes had reflectors). Shaun's bike broke down about 3 kilometers away from our hostel and Victor and him couldn't figure out how to repair it but the wheels were still working so Shaun hopped on Victor's bike at the back while holding his alongside. It didn't last for long as a kind Vietnamese man stopped to helps us. He took Shaun and his bike on his trailer. Victor
and I cycled and met Shaun by the lake. We gave the bicycles back (not saying anything about the broken bike) and had dinner. The guys had a whole grilled duck to themselves while I had fried spring rolls with rice. Vietnam is quite famous for spring rolls and we haven't been disappointed so far!
After dinner, I was exhausted from the cycling, hiking, paddling and jogging so I went to bed while Victor and Shaun drank some beer downstairs at the bar.
On the next day, we were going back to Hanoi with Victor (who was going back to Belgium the day after) for a night before figuring out what our next move was: Sapa, 6 hours north of Hanoi, or Catba, next to the famous Ha Long bay.
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