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Published: October 15th 2009
Ben went off to Halong Bay, and having been there once before, I decided to take myself off for an adventure of my own...which lead me to Ninh Binh...
The kind of place where you have to change your route home because the road has been blocked by rice crops. The kind of place where the drive home included driving under a spray of a rice harvesting machine, getting sprayed with straw. The kind of place where you have to slow down because there is a herd of ducks waddling towards you in unison on the road as the farmer moves them elsewhere! The kind of place you have to squeeze past a buffalo on the road!
I took a two hour bus from Hanoi, and found myself a nice hotel room. In the afternoon I hired a bike with a lovely Vietnamese driver, sadly whom I could not communicate with! I could have cycled to Tam Coc, but I was put off by having to cycle on the notorious Highway 1 which lonely planet stronlgy advises against doing!! The driver took me down fantastic country lanes with views of teh large limestone karsts emerging from the rice paddies.
I climbed up 500 steps one of said karsts, and had a great view of the landscape. Next, I went to Tam Coc for a calm row boat ride down shallow water in between the large peaks. It was beautiful. The only annoyance was when a lady magically got on my boat (don't know how she got on so quietly!) to deliver a sales pitch. Thankfully she left just as quietly! On the roads back, there were so many people in the rice paddies working hard, but what a scenic place to work!
I had a wonderful evening - just me and the cable tv! hehe....I think it's allowed once in a while!
The next day I went further out along the country roads and got driven to Cuc Phuong National Park (36km away). It was a good hour on the bike, so I was glad of the 2 hour walk I did in the park to refamiliarise myself with my bum muscles! Once again though, the views on the way were stunning. The area has a lovely landscape. On my walk it was nice to be surrounded by pure countryside and nature; caterpillars (which had cut perfect
circles in the leaves), butterflies, big spindly spiders, stick insects.
I also visited the monkey rescue centre, caring for endangered monkeys, gibbons and langers.
After yet another scenic ride home (thankfully we stopped for photograph taking!) I enjoyed dinner with four fellow travellers staying at the hotel, and we had a funny experience on our walk back from dinner. Vietnam was celebrating the full moon festival, so there were many street parties taking place. The one we passed were keep to involve us! All the ladies were round one table drinking lemon juice, while the men on the next table were getting blind drunk on beer. As we passed by, we were pressured to join them and have a beer, but we couldn't stay long as the others needed to catch a night bus. So, we stood round, unable to communicate drinking the beer, when one man challenged a downing competition! We realised our only cue to leave would be to finish the beers, so we drank up, and after being handed a banana said our thanks and moved on...all very random!
After a relaxing morning in Ninh Binh, it was time to be reuinted with Ben
and take the bus back to Hanoi.
I had a lovely 2 nights in Ninh Binh. The landscape is stunning.
(Recommend Xuan Hoa hotel)
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