To Tam Coc and Back . . . via Another Bus

Trip Start Feb 17, 2013
Trip End Mar 21, 2013

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Today was our one day bus trip to Hoa Lu, one of the ancient capitals of Vietnam, and Tam Coc, which means "three caves."

Now, may I explain?  We have come to HATE one day bus trips.  In most cases, they are a necessary evil of travel.  They are like self-flagellation, it feels so good when you stop.  You could probably hire a car and driver and guide.  But that turns into a $150 day w/o tip or meals.  So, sometimes you just get to bite the bullet and book yourself onto a group bus for about $25 per person, including a lunch.  And, you get to meet some new friends that you will never see again. -- 15 - 20 friends all feeling your pain.

Our bus was supposed to pick us up at 8:00.  At 8:20 I called the tour company to see how things were going.  After some tap dancing, we were told to grab a cab and go to a different hotel and meet the bus and the tour agency would pay for the cab.  So, off we went.  The cab driver was just going to drop us off at a street corner, but only our hotel and the driver knew the address of where we were supposed to go to.  My mistake, I admit it.  But, then, I told the taxi driver that the destination, whatever that was, was going to pay for the taxi, not me.  He suddenly got more interested in our address and a cell phone suddenly appeared.  We got to our destination just as the bus was driving up.  Seems the tour guide and bus were about to leave town without us.

Anyway, after a two hour bus ride to go 90 kilometers, about 60 miles, on roads that were better than average for Vietnam, we finally got to our first stop.  This was the Capitol of Vietnam from 968 to 1009.  Two temples remain and, if my eyes aren't getting too bad, they are both the same.  Look at the pictures and see if you don't agree.  Well, that stop beat a sharp stick in the eye, but not by much.

Oh, I forgot to mention, our bus was stopped TWICE by the police on the way down.  They must need more fancy clothes for their wives.

After a buffet lunch in a hot hotel with bad (but western) WC's, we were ready for our next adventure -- a boat ride at Tam Coc. I really don't know what to say here.  At the beginning it was looking pretty bleak.  First, like most things in Vietnam, you have to muscle yourself past the hawkers trying to sell you everything imaginable made in China.  Then you board a little boat, one of a thousand vying for a spot at the dock.  By this time you are convinced that there is going to be a fucking mouse trying to get into the picture with you.  But, unlike Mouseland, you don't have to wait in line for two hours and, instead of five minutes, the ride lasts almost two hours. It is better than Adventure Land or Pirates of the Caribbean because even Disney can't do scenery like this scenery.  Once on the water it all improved to the point that I was beginning to feel like the ride was worth it all. Then we were slammed again.  This time by boat people trying to sell us something.  I was beginning to look for Fletcher Christian so we could get the mutiny started.

The whole point of this exercise is to romantically row your boat gently down the stream.  And, the stream goes through three caves.  As you will see in the pictures, there are some pluses and minuses of this place.  My opinion, it is going to be loved to death.

Well, the fun has to end some time.  Then it was back on the bus for a two hour rattle trap ride back to Hanoi.  The bus even found our hotel.  AND, after just getting off the phone with our tour agency, we have been up graded a cabin level for our trip to Halong Bay.

Dayna's note:  One sad note to this day -- while on our bus trip (hostage situation) back to Hanoi, dodging gazillions of motorcycles and stuck in traffic, a truck pulled up alongside the bus.  In the back were crates of dogs, piled on top of each other, on their way to market.  The English woman sitting in front of us took pictures -- we couldn't bring ourselves to torture our memories anymore than this blog entry.  We could hear the dogs crying.  At one point, the looks of horror on our faces must have registered with the driver of the truck because he had a few choice words to say to us. It was at this point in our adventure that I really, really missed our sweet little English Springer Spaniel and his "brother," our son's Border Collie/Golden Retriever/Lab mix.  Asians definitely have a different perspective of what dogs are for -- they eat them, we treat them better than our children.

No Internet tomorrow so don't look for us for a couple of days.
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