The chicken bus from Cat Ba to Ninh Binh and then to Hue the Aussie and German Way

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November 14th 2008
Published: November 20th 2008
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Hi all, This is a big blog of photos. I have a new camera. Hope you like the shots.

After Cat Ba Island we traveled the well worn path by 3 buses and a boat. It took the better part of a day but we met new friends, Jens and Sylke from Germany; became sardines in the local 20 seater with luggage, deliveries, and 39 locals; view the countryside through smeared glass windows while feeling every bump in the road on my not so soft seat that was built for a race much smaller than my own.

We arrive in a flurry of activity all for our benefit to win our attention and extract more dong from us than we would like. But we (that is, I) had to leave the area to be able to think straight. In the end we follow our new friends to their hotel. There's not much in Ninh Binh except for what is outside it. The ancient capital is here. In between wars and dynastic clashes the capital moved from Hanoi to here for about 40 years or so until it was decided to keep in in Hanoi. This was the year 1010.
Ninh Binh Market drive thru...Ninh Binh Market drive thru...Ninh Binh Market drive thru...

.. we learned later that the ones on the motorbikes are rushed here from a restaurant to collect ingredients to make an order placed. How fresh is that?
In 2 years time there will be a huge party in Hanoi, it's 1000th Birthday. If you are thinking of traveling here around then, I would suggest you book now.

We book a motorbike tour with the guys from the hotel and the four of us went off to explore the countryside, a little off the beaten track. The day was great for $7 each plus lunch. (David takes over the writing now) Off we go into the ancient capital then climb the mountain to the pagoda (AFP! there are a lot of 'em) big hill and the steps are not so even. Some great shots of Lynne and ascending and descending ever so slowly. Then off to the Tam coc caves, these are an amazing low level caves that are even lower during the recent heavy rains, so low you have to lay down in the boat to get to them and through them! Lynne had the proverbial scared out of her at the end of this ride it was so funny....After arriving back at the boat harbor Lynne wanted some artsy photo's from a bridge, so perched on the bridge intensely focused on the subject through the lens she missed the large bovine creeping up behind her ( as bovines do....ha ha ha ) Then with one huge lung full of air a huge MOOOOOOOOOO! Lynne nearly leapt over the edge of the bridge and back in to the river. After we stopped rolling on the ground and recovered it was back to the hotel and out for a bite to eat.

The sleeper bus from another world!
Let me take you on a journey, a journey beyond space and beyond time the journey is called "THE VIETNAMESE SLEEPER BUS" Now we don't have these in Australia, and they don't have them in America or Germany, there is a good reason! We are not small enough to fit in them! Yet they seem to be made for the tourist industry....I just don't get it, they know that the average tourist is over 1.6m but still they say this is the best way to get around and they are possibly correct....don't get me wrong i don't want any one to think they are comfortable! but they are cheep and better than the local buses. Our journey on this bus began when upon entry we hear a warning buzzer, nothing unusual a door is open or something so i climb into the bunk in the top - middle and as it is still warm i feel good with the a/c on and blowing on me directly i am cool and comfy. The last person boards and the bus begins to move off....buzzer still going...beeep beeep! Now the driver has a hard task so he has an assistant who assists him and keeps him from dozing if the buzzer wasn't enough...yes it is still going off and now the driver and his assistant are frantically trying to fix the problem, in between cigarettes and while still driving, with all the ingenuity of a Vietnamese bus driver and his assistant...we hear the occasional bang and thump and slam of a door as they methodically work around the bus seeking the source of the ever increasingly annoying BEEEP BEEEP! After 3 hours of this you begin to dose off just through the shear mental exhaustion of trying to block out the BEEEEP BEEEP BEEEEEP! It is now 2 am and we seem to have been woken because the bus had to empty the loo! ( Lynne reports the loo is full of poo!) Off we go again What! no beeping!!!!!!!By now we are tired and a little loopy from sleep deprivation and begin laughing the driver then turns to us and says, in a low hypnotic go to sleeeeepppppp now..........!! which of course makes us laugh louder. We arrive at 7:30am in a little bus stop cafe where the driver gets a free feed for bringing a bus load of tired hungry tourists in for a feed. No no capitalism in this country.

Our arrival in Hue!
Just getting off the bus was a task, pushing past the taxi drivers and ciclo drivers, all trying to shove a brochure from the hotel which gives them the biggest kickback. We muscle through and at every corner do the same thing it seems that if you are wearing a large object on your back it sort of makes you stand out around here, poor old Quasi would have had a bad time here......Remeber our packs are 20kg's about each! so Lynne and Sylke check out our hotel and all i get is a voice calling from the 4TH FLOOR! rooms good bring up the bags. Turns out the room was
Colour sense taken from lolly Easter EggsColour sense taken from lolly Easter EggsColour sense taken from lolly Easter Eggs

Most buildings have been painted with the oddest colour clash.
ok, but the shared balcony was the clincher...some where where we can party on of a night with our new found friends. (and we did!) Still slightly sleep deprived we opted for a ciclo ride to plan our next day.
Day2 in Hue.
Bike hire in this country is cheep $1us/day so we were off, Lynne and here sense of balance took a bit of time to get her center centered. A quick stop at the markets so Lynne can buy a local cone hat. Off to the Pagoda (AFP) Thien Mu monastery. This was good, a glimpse at what monks do their lives and living quarters. Now i don't know if i'd like 400 people plus a day staring in my bedroom window but hey they open their door and windows so people are going to look in! and we did. Some kids were in school and just like our kids they were stuffing around picking on each other. The citadel next, a pretty cool place we enter and there are 2 large ponds, as there should be, the ponds are full of fish. This for me was the highlight of this place because i had a full pack of salada style biscuits and the fish had a huge appetite, i crushed a few up and threw them in and it was soooo cooool, they literally climbed over one another! Slowly but surley Lynne was pulling me away to get to the art work inside the big castle type thingy. There are some parts worth seeing but you can't take any pic's from inside, It is a beautiful tranquil place and once the reno's are complete will be a massive complex the original workmanship is beautiful and the artwork is as good as any seen in Vietnam. We leave the Citadel, well we try, there seems to be a straggler.....guess who! LLLLLYYYYYNNNNNNEEEEE! where are you? Once back on our trusty steeds we were hungry a quick stop at a great restaurant named Lac Thien, the owner is deaf and mute and makes a simple bottle opener to give to tourists when they eat there, food is cheap and good size portions. It is 4pm by the time we get back to the hotel and a night of drinking was to follow......see pictures no more need be said!
Day3 in Hue
This was a lay day Lynne wanted to see more pogoda's, yes there are lots...i may have said this, i did not and our friends had other things to do like a day at the beach and i went for a massage. Now i guess in most towns you go to if you need something you ask the taxi drive in Vietnam you ask either a ciclo or a motobi driver where to get it and if you are a single guy walking the street you get the following options-
1) you want ciclo?
2) you want motobi?
3) you want marawa?
4) you want boom boom? (yes it is what your thinking)

Of course i opted for 5...all of the above...hahahah. Seriously I walked back to the markets where i think a woman tried to give me her daughter, this was strange because it is unusual for people in this country to give anything without a price. I walked all over the place and ended up finding a great massage place to relax in. I met Lynne at the hotel at 3 ish ad we bought a bottle of Rhum (Rum) it is good and at $8/bottle it is good value. Needless to say now a good night was had by all. See pyramid pics.

We say goodbye to our friends on the following day at 1pm and we decide to catch up on some out of date blogging.

Off to Hoi An.... stayed tuned.

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