July 15, 2020
The bus from Dong Hoi to Ninh Binh arrives more than an hour late. In addition, it is fully loaded, with people lying even on the floor. We sit right next to the toilet. At the beginning it is not too bad, but after some time the toilet begins to smell terribly and we cannot sleep at all. If that is not enough, our driver did not stop in our town, where we wanted to get off. We realized it when arriving in the capital city of Hanoi, 100km away from our destination. When we get off the bus, we go to the office hoping this can be somehow fixed. We are offered, apparently at a lower price, a one-day trip to Ninh Binh, a place that is on our itinerary, so we agree to the proposal.
With this trip we are able to visit a place, which was not on our list: Lu Hao was the capital of Vietnam in 968-1009 during the reign of the Dinh and Le Dynasty. Although there are only a few small temples to see, the surrounding scenery of the place is simply magical. We move on. We eat a small meal to gather strength for the next point of our trip, which is the true reason we wanted to come here.
Tam Coc, known also as "Ha Long in rice fields," is the big famous rock formation scattered across rice fields. To admire it, we take a boat. Boats are for two passengers and a person that rows using, clearly, their own muscle strength. What muscles you ask? You probably think of arm muscles. It turns out that the local rowers use legs! And they are very skilled at it.
After getting on the boat, we begin to go between the previously mentioned rock formations. The water is so clear that you can see vegetation growing on the bottom. With today’s heat, it would be great to jump into the water. We go alongside giant limestone, which shows what nature and time does. It is called a karst process, i.e. geological formation shaped by the dissolution of a layer or layers of soluble bedrock, such as limestone. At this time, there are a lot of boats here, but it does not bother us to enjoy this moment. Along the way we pass local people wading in the water. We guess they’re looking for snails. They use nets attached to a triangular structure, and immerse it and then take it out of the water. We sail ahead. We notice water flowing underneath rock formations, creating something in the form of a tunnel, through which it flows. It is so low that sometimes we have to lean so as not to bump our heads. We have a new appreciation as to what powerful force and element water is. All this attraction takes over an hour. An hour of greatly spent time, during which we speak to each other very little, as everyone was absorbed in thoughts about this beautiful place.
After reaching the shore, we pack up for the bus and return to Hanoi. On receipt of the luggage, we decide to find a hotel. After a few minutes, we find the Hanoi Old Town hotel, which is run by an Englishman and his Vietnamese wife. The hotel is not in our price range, but Damien gives us a discount. The room is very spacious with a balcony, air conditioning, fridge, large TV and a computer with internet! We decide to stay here, telling ourselves that from time to time you have to spoil yourself 😉 After a quick shower we go to town to eat something, and then come back to our room and enjoy a well-deserved rest.
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson