Ninh Binh - Cheeky Madam

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ninh Bihn is a little town just south of Hanoi that is supposed to be a nice break where like-minded travellers can experience a slower-paced, rural side of the country. For $20 the hotel is incredible, the owner meets you at the door, speaks good english (as do all the staff) and they provide a range of tours. We opted to go to Tam Coc, Hoa Lu and Kenh Ga.

Tam Coc is named 'Halong Bay on the rice paddies' probably because the scenery is similarly stunning and the boat trip takes you on an hour ride through the huge rock formations surrounded by the locals farming the rice, it's very picturesque and you feel as if you're really in the heart of the country. What starts as a scenic trip turns into a right old song and dance by the end. We paid D40000 to be rowed along by a chain-smoking guy who after two minutes of rowing picks up an elderly woman who promptly grabs a spare paddle and gets to work, I would have felt sorry for her had we not have done some research before we set out. At the turn around point, after being giggled at by 200 or so Vietnamese school children all the way, we stopped and were harrased by the refreshment boats....

"You buy drink?" they asked. "no thanks" we said. "drink for him, drink for Madam (our extra, elderly rower), they asked. I guess most would feel sorry for "madam" and buy her a drink, but we knew that after we had been dropped off and drove away, she would have sold it back to them for half the price. Clever little madam! Once we'd turned around, still feeling guilty but hard-nosed, we spent the rest of the ride stopping side by side with other boats containing westerners and swapping our elderly scammer with another who would then offer us her tablecloths or doilies. We passed. After all that you are then asked, quite unashamedly to tip the main paddler $2 (more than a days earnings), we gave D10000 (around 40p and quite generous). By the time we stepped off the boat I felt like a right tight-arse, but a clever tight-arse at least.

After that we drove to the Hoa Lu, the country's former capital. The temples are interesting enough, I think we may be bored of them by the end of the trip though. These were filled with drums and gongs and hundreds of worshippers praying and giving countless offerings to the shrines. Kenh Ga is a floating village that we were driven on a boat through passing the biggest limestone rocks ever. Numerous boats passed us with the rowers leaning back and rowing with their feet, it all looked too easy.

Ninh Binh is a haven of quiet compared to Hanoi, until you sit in the internet cafe i'm in now. I'm surrounded by screaming kids frantically bashing the keyboard, they're playing some dance game on the net. They're all giggling at me, what's so funny? Charlotte thinks they think i'm Prince Harry!
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