A relaxing boat trip
A popular past time in Ninh binh is to hire a small boat and be rowed out onto a small lake alongside the dramatic limestone scenery. The experience we had lasted about an hour and a half and I would say that the overall experience was good, however although it wasn’t such a big deal, there were a few small annoyances.
Whilst out in a boat you’d think that you would be free from the hassle of low level sales persons pitching their souvenirs and other merchandise. Yeh I thought that too, but I was wrong, they also have boats. We were approached quite a lot by these ‘vendors’ and subjected to the hard sell. With the option of escape not available to us this situation became somewhat uncomfortable. That was the only bad thing about it, and it’s a small thing really. I would recommend doing this activity but just be aware of this.
There were severly brides and grooms having a photoshoot on the lake
A national park lies approximately 160 km west of Ninh binh and some of the small villages there have families that offer homestays. A homestay if you don’t know is basically when you stay at someone’s house and live as they do. Some of the hotels in Ninh binh were advertising these homestays but the price seemed to be quite high; sometimes as high as 90 US dollars. So, Anna and I thought we’d take it upon ourselves to cut out the middleman and ride a motorbike into the mountainous national park and find a homestay ourselves in one of the many small villages dotted around.
We rode all day and went to every village on the map and found nothing. Nowhere was offering homestays, there were no guest houses or hotels and no one spoke any english. We decided the next best thing to do was to try and make it to the next town.
The roads through the national park became more and more muddy the further we travelled and night was quickly descending upon us. We kept riding until it was pitch black and there we millions of insects in the air making it very difficult and very dangerous to carry on. We couldn’t go any further, so we turned back to the nearest small village that we last went through.
The village had a small shop, so we bought a drink, sat down and tried to think of a solution. Within a few minutes most of the village had come to join us and through a mixture of charades and pictionary we were able to communicate some basic information and highlight the current situation. The villages insisted that we travel no further and spend the night with the young family that own the shop.
A young couple with a very well behaved baby were our savours. We spent some time with the villages laughing and trying desperately to communicate with one another, then suddenly a chicken flew in through the open window and crashed around inside the bamboo hut trying to find a way out again. The chicken was caught by our host and he bashed it on the head with a wooden mallet. It was now time to make the evening meal.
We went out to find an authentic homestay experience and we got exactly that.