Hue….. We spent a couple of days here and it rained non stop! We arrived in the afternoon after spending the day traveling. We had read that the train ride between Danang and Hue is meant to be stunning so we got off the bus in Danang, caught a moto to the train station and booked the cheapest seats possible! The journey was fun, the carriage smelt of wee and the locals were all eating dried fish so the smell wasn’t great but the views were impressive and we had a great time chatting to the Vietnamese family sat with us.
It felt good to get off a tourist bus and travel the way the Vietnamese do, it turns a boring journey into an experience, we had been getting so bored of tourist buses so we really enjoyed it! As for Hue, we spent our time drenched! We explored the citadel which was really interesting and went to the local pagoda but apart from that we didn’t really do much as the weather was so rubbish. We did however find an awesome little cafe that had great food and milky warm drinks! It was really popular with the locals and heaving with school kids after the school day had finished. We watched in amazement as 3 young boys, they can’t have been older than 8 or 9, sat and scoffed their faces, ordering dish after dish as if they were kings! It was so funny, they had about 10 dishes between them and were very serious about their dining experience! You would never get 9 year olds in a restaurant in England alone eating like that!
We then caught a night bus from Hue to Hanoi but were woken up at 5 am with the driver yelling “Ninh Binh” at the top of his voice! We were thinking about going there anyway and the bus journey was really uncomfy so we made a quick decision and rushed off. Luckily we managed to get a guest house for $2 to stay in for the rest of the night, we have never appreciated a bed so much!
Ninh Binh itself is not the most aesthetically pleasing towns, grey concrete buildings line the streets but it’s surrounding area is unbelievably beautiful! We are so glad we got off the bus!! We went to a place called tam coc where huge karsts tower above small rivers and rice paddies to form a stunning landscape. You can explore the area by a small rowing boat that travels along the river and through caves in the karsts. It’s truly spectacular. Our boat was rowed by a lovely lady who not only used her arms and hands but also her legs and feet, really clever!
The next day we decided to go to Cuc phong national park. We had met a girl from Canada the evening before and the three of us decided to go to the park on Motos. It was one of the highlights of Vietnam for us. The moto drivers took us to the park cross country, through all the rural towns and villages and past miles upon miles of crop land and hills. It was like a mini tour of rural Vietnam. On arrival at the park we went to the ‘primate rescue centre’ where we saw a variety of Gibbons and Langurs that were being rehabilitated back into the wild. We then went for a trek through the park without a guide, which was really fun as you could go where you wanted (within reason) and take your time to stop and view the wildlife! On our way back we stopped off for lunch where we had some Buffalo noodle soup!
The only downside to Ninh Binh was that it was freeeeezing (Lucy wore 6 layers), but the hotels amazing hot chocolate made the temperature a bit more bearable!