It's grey and cold, but maybe it's not soo bad

Ninh Binh Travel Blog

 › entry 18 of 26 › view all entries
On the sunday morning i went out to find a pharmacist to buy some more anti-malarials - and they had them! but different coloured capsules....i'm hopping that doesn't matter?!  I then got a taxi from St Josephs sq to bus station across the river - charged 80 000 as opposed to the 2500 as stated in the LP - what's going on?! are there meters rigged???  The guy didn't have change so i had to pay even more than i should of -  god i hate this country! and then a bus to Haiphong only 30 000 but 3 and half hours??? No other falang on the bus and no-one speaking english...agh! Got dropped off in this massive industrial ugly city of haiphong, on the side of the road with nothing ferry nothing.  A lady getting her sacks of rice from the luggage compartment was beside herself because the bus driver had driven off as she was getting the rice out....???? One guy took me into a cafe and i think they called me a taxi..this took me maybe 15 mins to the coast and ferry point - 155 000.  And then the ferry for 80 000...such a bleak landscape, so grey and depressing what am i doing here?  Ferry 45mins, loaded down with motorbikes, and people, arrived at Cat Ba island - my destination - i didn't realise it was the right island so sat on the boat,only to have the Vietnamese laugh at me - they do that a lot.  So i'd spent 350 000 getting to the island, rather than the 120 000 it should have been if i'd got an all in one ticket - aghhh! Anyway got to the main Cat ba bay walked along the street to find the Bayview hotel, recommended by Amber, only to find her sitting at one of the cafes so she walked me down.  Very nice hotel, only thing is possibly one of the noisiest i've stayed in - seriously!!!  all of it tiled floors and tv in reception blaring away for about 20 hours a day.  Run by a funny English guy called Martin...from manchester, only 44 but looked a lot older!  Had dinner with Amber and Laura.  On the Monday we were going to hire motorbikes to make a visit to the National Park...after realising Laura didn't know how to use gears and me feeling very shaky, Laura and i decided against and hired to guys to take us on their bikes....went inland to the park - very mountainous...walked for about half an hour up side of mountain, reached the top to get amazing views across the National park.  Walked down again, went back on the bikes along the coastal path, very windy but beautiful.  Said good bye to Laura and then chilled out at the hotel..unfortunately there had been a power cut all day so no light and no hot showers - for christmas eve as well! Took it in good humour, had a delicious meal and then beer and then a nightclub...full of Vietnamese...unfortunately the power went again about quater to 11 so darkness and no music, and the Vietnamese started smashing their bottles on the floor, so Amber and I left.  Went down to a bar where I met with Ash, the Canadian who had been on my slowboat in Laos and who had been in the National park earlier in the day - such a small world! Hung out with him and his Fin friend, and a Australian family of 6 brothers and sisters!  Christmas day the power still wasn't properly back on, wavering on and off all day.  Very tired so didn't do much, got a manicure, which was more painful than enjoyable -cutting off chunks of my skin etc!  In the afternoon I watched 'The Goodshepherd' with Amber on the hotels massive TV, and in the evening the owner of BayView put on a christmas meal - Vietnamese style, with prawns, squid, spring roles and pork - very tasty! We then went up to the top room with the pool table and biggest TV ever to play some games.  Boxing Day was again relaxing, decided to hire a bike and cycle to CatBa beach - 2 of them the second, was completely empty apart from me, great views of Halong bay sitting in a hammock on my own!  On the 27th I made my way back to Hanoi this time doing it the right way and buying the all inclusive ticket.  Only thing was we had to change buses in Haiphong...i went quickly to the toilet, being charged to go in outside troph thing with all the Vietnamese laughing at me, then taken to another toilet where they hid the charge until i came out - so payed twice, only to find my buses was just leaving the station so I had to run to get it.  Arriving back in Hanoi I got a motorbike straight to the next bus station for a bus to Ninh Binh - unfortunately a guy led me to what I thought was the  right bus, only to find no one on it apart from a guy sleeping on a hammock, it wasn't leaving for 2 and a half hours and they were going to charge me 100 000 for it instead of the normal 30 000.  Decided to leave the bus, using toilet as an excuse only to be escorted by one of the bus drivers friends.  Managed to leave him - found the ticket booth, correct price, and correct bus - phew!  2 and 1/2 hours down to Ninh Binh - another seriously ugly town, horrible!  Queen MiniHotel ok though....spent the whole of Friday in my room, eating and reading - couldn't really face another Vietnamese town for a day!
On the 29th I went on a tour of the local area - hiring a motorbike driver for  $11 - very expensive, but Mr Leung from the hotel organised it so decided it must be trustworthy (he is raved about in the LP).  Left at 8.30am, very cold, travelling to Kenh Ga where I got a boat with a French family of 6, visiting the fishing villages and looking at the massive mountainous rocks coming out of the ground.  Then bck on the bike to Hoa Lu - the ancient capital, in ruins - not much left, but 2 lovely temples - hundred of French tourists, Vietnamese saying Bonjour to me?!  Then on bike, through such amazing scenery to what I think was Thai Vi Temple - this was huge steps winding up a mountain side, to great views of the rice fields and waterways winding through the mountainous scenery.  Huge dragon on top of the mountain as well. My driver then took me round the mountain to Tam Coc....just me and a lady rowing for 2 hours along the Ngo Dong River..through karst caves...hundreds of boats going both ways..very beautiful scenery, could see the dragon on top of the mountain i'd walked up.  Once we reached the end we had the boat sellers, row over and try and sell me coffee and get me to buy a drink for my rower - i would have but apparently the LP says it's a scam and the rower sells it back to the seller for half the price - the things they do here are just unbelievable!  Back to the main bum was hurting on the return journey as another tin boat, so i started paddling with the spare paddle to help the rower a bit :-).  Had some of the lovely coffee they serve here (very strong, with condensed milk in the bottom) with my driver and restaurant owner, but again they spoke no english so again not the best conversation i've had!  Back on the bike to Ninh Binh.
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Ninh Binh
photo by: Reephboy