Once again – another early start today.   It seems most tours from Hanoi leave at 8am and the one I was on today was no different.

After yet another awesome omelette breakfast I waited in the lobby for my tour van to come pick me up.   Unlike last time the van had people I could talk to on it.

There were 2 women from France, a couple from Austria, 2 more women from the UK and 2 couples from Melbourne (although they didn’t know each other).

And me.

The proverbial 11th wheel.   It’s funny how on these trips everyone is coupled up and then there’s me waving the flag for all the solo travelers out there.

The trip today was a day trip out to Ninh Binh province where we would visit the temples in Hua Lu and then go for a boat ride town the Tam Coc river.

Our guide, Kim, actually spent a good 40 minutes at the start talking about the trip and giving different anecdotes about Vietnam and the people.   He actually was pretty funny and had a good grasp of the English Language.

He kept using the phrase Same same, but different to compare things.   He was just a really fun guide.

I spent the majority of the day with one of the couples from Melbourne – Terry and Elise (it was her birthday).

They were closer to me in age and we spent alot of time chatting as the van ride to Ninh Binh was about 2 1/2 hours.

We arrived in Hua Lu around 11am to, once again, a grey overcast sky.

There are actually many tour companies that do the same trip as we were doing so when we arrived in Hua Lu there were dozens of other tourists clamoring to visit the temples that were there.

We entered the first temple and although it strictly said no photos inside it seemed like alot of people were disregarding it and snapping pics.

I’ll be honest, I fell under the mob mentality and took some myself but when I went outside again I felt like they were dirty and tainted.

I felt like I had disrespecting the sanctity of the place so I actually deleted all the photos I took inside.

I felt much better once I had.

We also visited a second temple and had the exact same experience.

We popped back in our van for a quick trip over to Tam Coc where we would be spending the rest of the afternoon.   By now it was starting to drizzle rain and this would sadly be our weather for the rest of the day.

First we stopped for a buffet lunch that was included in the trip at some hotel restaurant.   Although there was a huge selection of different dishes it wasn’t that great.

Everything was mediocre and a far cry from the amazing Vietnamese food I had experienced the last few days.

Next on tap was a 2 hour boat ride down the Tam Coc river.   Now, when I say boat – it was more like a little wooden row boat.

Since it was raining out I finally gave in and bought one of those hideous plastic ponchos that just screams tourist.

I didn’t feel so bad about the purchase as pretty much everyone else had bought one too.

My 11th wheel turned into only a 3rd wheel as everyone went in pairs on the boats.   I joined Terry and Elise for their romantic cruise down the river.

In fact I really killed the romance as Terry sat behind the two of us as he was given rowing duty as well.   I’m just kidding, of course.   They were happy to have be there and, of course, I was happy to be with them as well.

Most of the rowers were little Vietnamese women who would use their feet to control the oars instead of their hands.   They would sit back like it was a day in the sun and just row the boat along.

It really was a beautiful experience and we even saw a bride and groom on one boat anchored to the side of the river.   Were they there for photos or actually getting married?   We couldn’t tell but the romantic in me is going with the marriage.

An hour into the boat ride we turned around to return back down the river.   Of course not before we passed a collection of 5 boats parked to the side selling food and drinks.

In fact, one of the boats actually blocked our boat in so we were surrounded.   After Terry bought our 2 rowers a couple of drinks (which they probably just return for the money) we were set free once again.

A few minutes later, our rowers stopped and we drifted to the river bank where, once again, we were hounded to buy something.   This time our 2 rowers pulled out there hand woven art and souvenirs to ply on us.

We sternly said no and finally were off again.

By now we were all pretty wet even with those stupid plastic ponchos on and we were so happy to finally be ashore again around 3pm.

The tour included a 40 minute bicycle ride around the village but all of us pretty much nixed that idea as I think we all just wanted to get back into town, change and freshen up.

At 6pm we finally arrived back in Hanoi after another 3 hour van ride.   I said my goodbyes to everyone as they were all staying in different hotels.

I quickly ran up the stairs back to the dorm room to change.   Everyone in the room was new except for Shelley and Ellen who I had hung out with last night.

After a few introductions and a change of clothes, Shelley and I left for dinner and a 8pm water puppet show.

Now, when I go to dinner I like to invite anyone and everyone to come with because I know how great it feels to be on the opposite end of such an invite.

Nothing better than being in a new city and having someone come up to you who’s been there for awhile and invite you out.

So, along with the 2 of us – we had Ellen, Ellie (UK), Cat (Richmond, Virginia), Vanessa & Matthew (UK) join us for dinner back at the amazing place we went to last night.

After looking up the place last night after we ate there I came upon another dish that they offered – Thap Cam.

This dish is a little bit of everything – braised pork pate, egg, dried pork, Chinese sausage, Vietnamese fried sausage, rice and that, oh so yummy, mung bean paste.

All 6 dishes came out to 417,000 dong (about $20).   To think I could have fed our entire group for a measly $20 – crazy!

After dinner Shelly and I headed off to the water puppet show while the rest returned to the hostel.

Again – amazing show!   There’s actually some people at the hostel who don’t want to go and I just can’t figure it out.   Culturally it’s amazing and for only 60,000 dong ($3) it’s certainly worth the cost.

After the show we searched out a donut lady.   There are ladies walking around the streets with baskets of little donuts balls for sell.   I’ve had them a few times but Shelley had yet to experience it.

Alas, our search was in vain as it was past 9pm and the streets were shutting down.   We did stop by the sugar cane juice place again so I got my sweet fix at least.

At then it was time to turn in for the night.

Of course we had a snorer in our room and even my best Gagnum Style dancing right beside him didn’t break the snore.

Oh well, at least I gave the rest of the room some entertainment.

Asia Trip 2014, Trip Journal

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