Off the Beaten Track........
21.06.2009 - 23.06.2009 31 °C
I originally hadn't planned on visiting this town – indeed I had never even heard about the place but a few guys I met in Hanoi were planning on visiting the place so I decided to travel out with them. What a great decision that turned out to be. The place was a fantastic find and was completely off the beaten track and devoid of tourists!
We had gotten a bus to the town which we believed was going to Ninh Binh. It turned out it wasn't and was only going near the town. We were dumped on the side of the road but with vehement assurances that the town centre was only 1km away. Armed with this information we proceeded to walk towards the town. After about 2km we realised the bus driver was either a lying b*stard or else had no sense of distance. We began asking people on the side of the road how far and it seemed we had another 8km or so to go. This wasn't good news as it was hot and we were all lugging heavy rucksacks. When asking for directions as this motor bike repair shed we basically asked was there any chance of a lift in their bike contraption out the form. This cued much laughter until he realised we were serious. Next thing we know we have a crowd forming about us as we are piling onto the tiny vehicle.
The funniest point was went the tiny plastic chairs appeared from nowhere for us to sit on. To be honest I think the chairs made it slightly more dangerous but it was a nice touch. Anyway we rocked into Ninh Binh crammed in the back of this tiny motor bike. We garnered lots of waves, car horns and plenty of smiles. We certainly were a unusual sight in Ninh Binh :-)!
Now while the town of Ninh Binh itself is devoid of anything to do just outside the town was a wealth of sights and activities. We hired some motor bikes and headed out into the countryside and so into some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. It was simply amazing to cruise around tiny back roads in the countryside bathed by beautiful sunshine (thankfully we left the humidity of Hanoi behind) and not see a western face all day! We really got off the beaten track and saw some amazing scenery. The first place we arrived to was Tam Coc. This was actually like halong bay but on rice paddies rather than water. We got onto a small boat and were rowed up a tiny river through huge limestone karsts. We actually even paddled through 70 metre long caves under this huge karsts which was quite an experience.
We also took a hike up one of this limestone monsters which afforded us magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
On our second day we headed out on our bikes again and visited some old temples and tombs of the old Vietnamese kings. Once of the more interesting places we arrived into was Kahn Geh which is a tiny fishing village. What is particularly unique about the place is the fact that the major of the village is on water. It essentially floats – apparently the villagers spent the vast majority of their time on the river! The other novel feature is the fact that they row their small boats using their feet – I've never seen that before! All this info was cobbled together from a mixture of pidgin English, French and sign language. It was amazing to get away from all the tourist traps and really get out to see Vietnamese people going about their lives. It was a cool experience without a shadow of a doubt. We also visited Da Long which is the largest wet lands in Vietnam. Once again we clamoured aboard traditional canoes and were rowed up (using only feet again !!!) through through the wetlands which each turn presenting us with a view more beautiful than the last.
It really is a county blessed with and amazing landscape! Ninh Binh and the amazing countryside in its environs was an unexpected bonus. A fantastic detour off the beaten track :-)!