Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ninh Binh

I took a bus boat bus to get from the town of Cat Ba to Ninh Binh. I paid the hotel for the ticket to Ninh Binh and got this hand written receipt and then I seemed to get passed from person to person at each transport change. I thought the bus from Cat Ba would go onto a ferry to get off the island but we went to a small boat that was really packed. It would not have been that full if it was not for all the scooters on the boat. I think the scooters took up more room then the people on the boat. When the boat docked we got into a van and then when we got to the bus station in Hai Phong where I was handed a bus ticket to Ninh Binh. I was never told anything along the way but just followed other people and figured they where going the same place as me.

That evening in Ninh Binh the hotel restaurant did not have many tables so I was joined by 3 ladies while having diner. It turned out that one of the ladies was planning on seeing the same sites as me the following day so we decided to go site seeing together. Candace is a Canadian that is currently living in Sydney. I really enjoyed her company for the day while riding around Ninh Binh.

We got bikes and directions from the hotel and headed off to Tam Coc. The area around Ninh Binh has rock formations like Halong Bay or Yangshuo which I had visited earlier on this trip. The entrance fee to Tam Coc includes a trip on a rowboat and the boat goes down a river and through a cave. The river runs through the striking rock formations. Here is one of the pictures I took while in the rowboat.

After the boat ride we hopped back on the bikes and rode the short distance to the Bich Dong Pagoda. It was an interesting temple in the middle of a wonderful setting
surrounded by rock formations. There was a guy at the pagoda that showed us around and wanted to make sure we understood that a statue was of a monkey so he would act like a monkey and make monkey noises and point at the statue. The statues seemed obvious to me but I enjoyed watching him act out the different figurers. He kept sticking out his tongue for a turtle and this is not an action I would ever associate with a turtle so good thing I could see it was a turtle or I would have thought it was a snake.

The next stop on the bike was the Thai Vi Temple but I really enjoyed the scenery on the short road to this temple. I thought the temple was nothing special but really enjoyed the view along the road to get there.

The next stop was Mua Cave. I have no idea why this is called a cave. I never saw a cave at this site it was a bunch of stairs that went up to the top of one of the rock formations where there was a gazebo type of building. The stairs were a lot of work but what a great view from the top. The top had a view out over the river that we had gone down in the rowboat and in the other direction out over rock formations and rice fields.

We cycled the long way back to the hotel enjoying the views for a lot of the way at least until we got on the main road that runs the length of Vietnam highway 1. Cycling on this road was not a lot of fun. I hated the truck and bus horns. The horns are so loud and scared the hell out of me. We did make it down the highway and found the hotel with only one wrong turn. It turned out to be a great way to spend a Christmas day.

I enjoyed the ride so much on Christmas day I decide to do another ride prior to leaving for Hue. My plan was to ride to Hoa Lu which is an ancient citadel. I never did find it but still really enjoyed the ride. I did visit a temple in a cave that has some association to Hoa Lu but did not find it that impressive. I also visited another temple and pagoda while looking for Hoa Lu. I also rode a ways along the ridges between the rice fields which I found really fun. I was unsuccessful in finding the Hoa Lu citadel but was successful in having an enjoyable day on the bike. Here is a pagoda I rode by during the day.

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