Ninh Binh/Phong Nha
After Halong Bay – speaking of which, everybody heckle Carly RN, or she may never muster up the time to write about it – we headed straight to Ninh Binh. I’ll just get right to it – Halong Bay, for me, was sadly underwhelming. I know, don’t kill me! I don’t think this is tooshocking, considering it might be the most photographed place in Vietnam. How could you not be expecting something incredible and Avatar like? It just wasn’t everything I had truly hoped for. I blame getting some sort of food poisoning and not ideal weather.
Ninh Binh was different. It was better. We had 24 hours in Ninh Binh, the ‘Halong Bay’ of land, and I ate up every moment…other than the first few hours. Carly had a bed bug scare (if you could even call it that) so we both took everything we own to the laundry, leaving us in Callums clothes for the day. From there we rented motorbikes with our Aussie friend Jess (who we met in Halong) and explored.
The town of Ninh Binh is really nothing, but it doesn’t have to be. Tam Coc is all you need to see and you will leave feeling fulfilled. It is impressively grand and unique. I can’t stress this enough. I loved it! Can you tell yet??
We cycled past rice fields and took an expensive 1.5 hour boat ride through the mountains. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. We also ate at the same family owned restaurant for every meal that day, becoming such regulars that the owners gave us a bag of goodies before our overnight bus to Phong Nha.
And Phong Nha…OH. MY. GOD.
If I thought Ninh Binh was unreal, I thought Phong Nha was otherworldly.
We arrived in the morning, and by morning I mean 4am. We checked into Easy Tiger, which I cannot recommend enough, and stayed up to eat breakfast while the sun came up. Callum and I took a walk long enough to see the village kids biking to school and marvel over how impressive the mountains were from town before taking a nap till noon.
**The hostel had to be one of my favorites to date – comparable to Purple Monkey in Pai. It had a pool, hammocks, a bar, firepits, COFFEE AND BAILEYS, CIDER, and the best pizza in Vietnam.**
By the time we got our first day going, all we could muster up was a meal and a bike ride. Our ride ended up going longer than expected…due to my bike chain completely breaking in a small village 4 miles away from where we were staying…as the sun was setting. The plus side was the village kids loved speaking to us with the little English they knew and the scenery was beautiful. Callum ran my bike all the way back while the girls casually pedaled...troooper!!
The following day, our only full day in Phong Nha, we trekked in the National Park. We visited Paradise Cave, ate an amazing lunch, ziplined over a river (and some seriously blue water), and floated in mud (!!) in the Dark Cave. It was my favorite organized tour out here and I will tell everybody about it for the rest of my life. Fact.
By the time the day was done, Carly and I were tackling a massive cold from our adventurous day in the rain. All we could do was eat pizza and gift Jess some Vegemite before she headed back up north. At 4am, we were back up and headed to Hue, and from there, Hoi An -- blog post to come. We have now parked up in Dalat for a few days…but our visa expires in a weeks time, so we’ll see how much more we can squeeze in.
Today we are recovering from an 18 hour bus ride. Our shoulders are peeling, our bellies are full (banana pancakes!), and we’ve just purchased our plane tickets back to SEATTLE. I’d say we are alive and well.