Ninh Binh / Tam Coc : Boating on the 'Ha Long Bay of the Rice Paddies'
Ninh Binh Travel Blog› entry 145 of 268 › view all entries
Back in Hanoi and several days to while away. Twiddling my thumbs until I finally get my hands on a Chinese visa [ see note on upcoming Hanoi entry]. Mike’s off to Sapa. I won’t head that way until aforementioned visa’s in my possession so once again, and really for the first time in almost a month I will be left for a number of days to my own devices. And pretty much from here on in out. It’s been a great, great pleasure to have the fluctuating pattern of the same few good friends to travel with in these parts since hitting southern Laos. I have again been very lucky in Providence’s pick of pals for my travels.
I have planned at least one day trip away from Hanoi. This is doubling back about 100 kilometres south of Hanoi to the province of Ninh Binh. As with Ha Long Bay this is a much Guide Book waffled, Tour Company touted trip so you will have worries getting there and back in a day if you so choose. This is what I will do. These last days in Hanoi and Vietnam I’m getting a little lazy in my budget bargaining ethos and just pay $15 to my hotel to get me on the trip.
Departure straight from the breakfast table and a mini-van south for a couple of hours after the usual 45 minute crawl around town picking up everyone else from their respective hotels. Ahead of lunch in the town of Tam Coc the first ports of call are a couple of old, revered Chinese style Buddhist pagoda temples. Didn’t realise this was in the days itinerary, but to be fair, I was so lazy I didn’t even read it through. “Ah, who cares!”. I feeling pretty drifty today. “Two more flippin’ temples. Whoop-ti-do!”. That’s about what I feel about temples right about now in my travels.
Lunch is partaken of all seated congenially around a round table trying to strike that difficult but necessary balance between wanting to share out the communal foods in an egalitarian manner between all comers, and a food filching grab-fest predicated on and motivated by the fact that you’re ostensibly with a group of strangers you don’t yet know and give a f**k about even less “so it’s every man and his ravenous backpacker-starved stomach for himself!”.
Following that it’s time for the days highlight and the reason why I’m really here. The beautiful river ride down the Ngo Dong River. A beautiful, shallow water way that wends its way very sedately through the fantastic scenery of the Tam Coc area.
Stepping down the embankment at Tam Coc, amidst a large throng of tourists on the same trip as everyone else, you are siphoned onto small rowboats manned predominantly by pairs of women. Sometimes two guests to a boat. Sometimes three as with Vincent and Rozanna (from Kuala Lumpur) and I. Sometimes more. There are many, many of these boats and they all set off and follow in a paddling gentle procession down the Ngo Dong.
These are tough sun hardened ladies. Lord knows how many times they make this strenuous return trip of near two hours solid rowing in duration, but Fweng at 35 and Vai at 45 show little signs of their respective ages and flag not.
I really, really enjoy this boat ride. I’d have paid 15 bucks for this alone. Quite unique in my travel experience so far.
So yeeeeet another scenic scene drawn to a close my friends. Are you as tired of reading about them in the same tired old language as I am tired of crafting them in the same tired old language? You’re not?!! That’s great.
… because people, friends and buddies alike. Brace yourselves. Are you seated. Can it be true? Pinch me am I dreaming? It really can’t be happening can it?! I can’t believe me eyes, nor my Internet Service Provider and other vital organs and senses… after 7 months and then some of constant lag and writing fatigue this monstrous, monolithic, laborious and sleep-inducing blog is finally, incredibly unbelievably (and probably only for one nano-second) BROUGHT UP TO DATE! Yes it’s true. Trrrrrue I tell you. It’s the 8th April 2009. It’s 23.36pm Hanoi Time. I‘m here. Live and exclusive. You‘re there reading right now maybe. It‘s late “An’ I’m tired an’ I wanna go to bed, I had a little drink about an hour ago, and it went straight to my head”. But Mike just returned from Sapa with beers so I think I’ll have another little drink to celebrate. Oh yes. Ladies and germs you have been listening to The Midnight Scrawler. “Good night World, wherever you are.”