A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam-Bus Way to Hell/Hue

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Last night, I boarded the bus in Ninh Bihm for the approximately 11 hour ride to Hue.

This was a sleeper bus, which meant that there are beds lining the lower and upper floors of the bus. The beds don't quite go flat but are somewhat reclined. (I rode one last week on the way to Sapa).

This one was WAAAY worse. My particular bed was in between the left and right side of the bus, meaning there was a bed to the left (separated by a small path to walk), and to the right. Which meant I couldn't roll over, even slightly, or else I might fall onto the floor. I had my bag in the front of me, with my camera, passport, and some books to read, and that took up a lot of room in the "bed". So I had my legs around it. So my legs we're at an angle. To make things worse, the bathroom was just two rows back-and not only could I smell it, but folks could jostling me who we're walking to the bathroom. The bus was way overcrowded, with people sleeping on the floor as well.

As the bus continued on into the morning, we went over really really bumpy roads, and I could feel every one. The folks in the back row we're talking too loud-but since they we're speaking French I figured they we're fellow tourists, so I didn't shut them up-because they we're seemingly the few tourists on the bus on a bus full of locals.

I was happy to get off the bus after approximately 11 hours.

Posted by DavidPearlman 19:18 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam-Ninh Binh for a Day

The night-before-yesterday, I was in a 4 person dorm room at the Long Hotel, where it was in the 90's. Three of us we're in the room-the other two being two girls who recently graduated from Boston University, one who had a prosthetic leg. All was fine for the most part-except during the twice during the night when the power went out-the room with deathly silent, with no whir of the fan and air conditioning. And it was hot. Really hot. This happened twice during the night-for I am not sure how long.

Yesterday, I awoke at 8:30 to go on an overpriced tour of the Ninh Binh area. I got in a Toyota SUV, and it ended up being with my two roommates from Boston. We went and saw three different places:

(1) The first place being a temple and pagoda on a mountain top, which requires a climb up a lot of thick steps in the heat ( which I later learned was around 107 degrees). There we're actually two different climbs to make-one to a pagoda and one to a temple. The views we're splendid, but the heat was stifling of the limestone cliffs, and it was very tiring in the heat. We all made it to the top-the two girls, including the one with the prosthetic leg, we'e some what faster than I was.

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(2) We we're dropped off at a boat ride around the Trang An Landscape province with huge lake with temples and karnst cliffs. It was the three of us in the boat, along with a woman rowing the boat and taking us through caves. It was a nice long ride. We we're once again relaxing under the very very very hot sun, enjoying the impressive views and going through caves. After a while, the boat came to land-this was the filming site of the movie "King Kong-Skull Island", or something like that. Like most movies, I never saw it. But there we're signs indicating this was the filming site. The lady stearing the boat said repeatedly "King Kong King Kong", as she didn't seem to know much English. The two girls ran ahead instead of waiting for me. No doubt that they don't want to wait for a weird quirky old guy (they probably wouldn't have waited for me if I was their age). i walked off slowly, examining the huts, and a boat which was supposedly in the movie. I followed a path. After about 1/2 an hour, I discovered that we we're to pick up the same boat somewhere else-at the end. I waited at the end for the girls-and I was cursing them out under my breath. I figured they went on without me. They we're just selfish millennials, who don't have patience for someone their father's age hangin with them in Southeast Asia.

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As I waited at the end of the dock, and the boat woman called for me to join her on the boat, I signaled for her to pick me up-it was then she pointed, as the two girls we're running down the hill. They thought they would rejoin the boat where it would drop us off, and got lost. I felt somewhat vindicated. We finished the ride-the boat driver signaled that she wanted a tip, and kept begging for money. I gave her some.

The guide picked us up again and drove us to the Long hotel, where we had lunch with lots of tour groups. The buffet was plentiful, and the food was good. The tour guide said he would pick us up at around 2:30-giving us an hour and a half. I ate some rolls, chicken pho, and took a nap in the hotel lobby.

He picked us up, and took us to (3) A large Buddhist temple complex in Nimh Binh, called the Bai Dinh temple complex, which isn't old-the building started in 2003-but it contains the largest temples and pagodas in Vietnam, along with thousands of small Buddhas. It was impressive, but I arrived in Hong Kong roughly 3-4 months ago-and since then-in China, Korea, and Japan-I have seen seemingly hundreds of Buddhist temples, and it is hard to be amazed at them any longer.

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The driver picked us up and brought us back to the hostel, where we waited for the bus to Hue.

Posted by DavidPearlman 18:56 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam-Nothing in Nimh Binh

Yesterday, I left the early for the bus to Nimh Binh, which is further down the coast of Vietnam.

At roughly 8:00, am, I got on the mini bus which stopped outside the hostel for the short bus. The bus stopped at about 20 different hotels and hostels within a few miles radius before we got going,

Once we got going, the bus was completely full, with 32 people riding. I was sitting in a relatively comfortable middle seat with a seat next to me, but moved to a second seat when the woman who was guiding people on to the bus asked me to move because a couple was getting on. I did, but someone in the front seat kept trying to recline, but couldn't. After the bus stopped a little later to pick someone else up, and I moved to a back seat to make her fell more comfortable. It was in the last row of the bus, with two seats on either side-on one side was a skinny girl and a big guy on the other side. It was so tight, I couldn't move back. So I was stuck leaning forward for the entire ride.

After an hour and 1/2 or so, the bus stopped at a rest area. Like other rest areas I was at, this one featured lots of disabled people laboring away at making art. I saw those in Halong Bay-it was only when I discovered as it was supposedly due to the US Government's agent orange as to why these people are disabled.

We got back on the van, and in about an hour-it dropped us off at Nimh Binh. As relieved as I was to get off the bus-it was sort of frustrating when the driver had trouble opening up the back compartment, where the luggage was kept. He tried for about 5 minutes, but it wouldn't open. Finally, another passenger helped him and it did open.

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I found the Long Hotel across the street from the bus terminal. I picked it only because it was advertised as where the bus stops at and it was $5 per night for a dorm room. The reviews weren't great, but it wasn't bad.

I walked around to a temple across the street, and a canal surrounding it-I walked around for about an hour or two, but it was hot-really really hot. I think it was 100 with 90% humidity. Nobody except for a few back packers and cycle riders we're on the street. So I went back to the hotel and took a nap on a chair.

Later, I went out again for dinner. Once again, very few peopel we''re on the street-every restaurant owner was urging me to come in. I finally found one with a few folks eating at and had some soup, and a beer.

I Walked around in the silent downtown in the dark, and went back to the hostel.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 16:46 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi-Last Day

Yesterday was my last day in Hanoi. It is an exciting city, and I am sort of sad to leave.

It wasn't an exciting day. First I took walk in the 100 degree heat to the Military Museum, but it was closing when I got there-it was a little before noon. I was able to view some of the exhibits from the outside, though. There we're a few US planes which the Vietnamese shot down and captured. There we're some Soviet made airplanes which helped to take down the US planes. It was pretty neat to see, but there wasn't much, and I didn't feel like waiting longer and paying to see more.

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I then took a walk towards the lake, where I have spent a lot of time, as many things seem to be happening around the Hoan Kien Lake, with folks playing music, just relaxing etc. First I took a nap on the bench, and then I walked a little longer, and went to the same bench as I met David at a few ago. Here, a few groups of students came to interview me, as they we're learning English. Three sets of students, did, and this was getting tiring. (I actually met the last kid later on at another lake)

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After a while, I went over to another lake-West Lake, where one of the students asked if I had been-I haven't, so I took a walk there in the heat (about 1/2 an hour walk) to that lake, which is a much larger lake. As I was walking, someone asked where I got my shirt with lots of fruit on it-I said over by the lake there we're lots of vendors selling them. I Found out he lived two towns over from me-I don't like meeting folks who live near me travelling-I am looking at meeting folks who live far away. When I got to the lake, there was a large pagoda on the lake, and it was quite pretty. I then sat and watched the bats fly over the lake, as it was dusk.

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After that, I went back to the first lake, where being Saturday night there is always a lot going on-I saw musicians play, and there was a street fair as well-so I Went there, and walked back to the hostel where the games we're playing.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 17:02 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Sapa Vietnam-Tuff Muddin and Tuff Sunnin in the Bush

The past few days I have been on a Trek to Northern Vietnam to explore the north, with the Hmong minority community.
A bus picked myself, and two others from the hostel up at 9:00 pm, and brought us to another bus about 20 minutes away, which was full with backpackers. This was a "sleeper bus" with bus on covering both sides of the bus; upper and lower beds. We got on for the 6 hour ride to the northern part of Vietnam. The bus ride went over a lot of bumbs, and I slept sort of intermittently.

We actually arrived in Sapa at 4:00 am, and I woke up groggily-but the bus driver let everyone sleep for 2 hours on the bus since there isn't much you can do in Sapa that early. At 6:00 am we got off the bus- The air back in Hanoi was hot and stuffy, here it was crisp and cool, probably in the upper 60's to low 70's-we we're all petty disoriented. We we're all going separate places, and most of us didn't know where to go.

A man came up with a sign with the three of our names on it from the hostel-he was to drop us off at the homestay-where we would have breakfast and stay that night. We climbed into his Toyota SUV with an Ed Sheeren playing, and rode up and down the hills, past rice terraces, along the side of a cliff, and after an hour or so-we reached the Homestay-which was down a small path. I carried one of the girls suitcases, and it feel and slipped down a small hill into the mud. It was muddy, but it was closed tightly so none of the inner contents got muddy.

The homestay was a very rustic two story building. We found beds on the second floor, which was really at attack surrounded by beds. After putting our stuff down, we sat down at the table to a big breakfast, of toast, eggs, vegetables, and other stuff. We sat with some folks who we're there for the previous day and hiked, and asked them what they thought. They said the hike wasn't that bad. We asked if we should rent boots-they said yes.

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After breakfast and showering, our guide for the 15 KM hike (and 7 KM hike the next day) came along. Our guide was a women, approximately 5'2" tall, and dressed in traditional clothes. Later we learned that like most people in her tribe, she only went to school through age 14 or 15, got married at 17, and has 2 children.

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The weather was overcast, and Bau led us up a hill for the beginning of the hike, and the 4 of us on the hike (a newly married couple was part of the group, and one of the three from the hostel decided to stay in since she was in pain from a previous hike). We learned real quickly that renting the boots was a good idea. The trail was muddy. So we continued going up the mountain with muddy boots, and we continued climbing past sweeping vistas of rice fields. Bau explained that rice is grown in the summer and potatoes in the winter. Bau and others assisted us. Some of the others maneuvered up the train with slippers-while we had trouble wearing boots with the mud. We walked and walked until we arrived at a smooth path. We we're on the path for a while-until Bau, and some other guides from the community, met and decided that we needed to turn off the smooth path, and walk up another muddy path, which was difficult to walk on. After a while, we came to a clearing, walked down the hill for a few kilometers, and stopped for lunch, which was rice, tofu, and some type of meat, which we have been carrying with us.

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We continued on the walk after the approximately 20 minutes of lunch, and walked down hills, slid through more mud, and walked across clearly marked path. By the time we returned, it was approximately 3:30, and we all just crashed at the homestay, and relaxed on the porch, until dinner time. Dinner was really good-we had vegetables, meat, some tofu, rice, and other foods. After dinner was all sat silently, too tired to get up and walk away from the table. After a few minutes, we just went to the porch. We we're all in bed by 9:00 pm.

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The next day, I woke around 6:00 am to watch the sunrise on the porch. It was a nice peaceful, crisp morning once again in the low 70's. Today the sun was out. We had a nice breakfast once again,

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Bau came to pick us up, and we went hiking once again. This time, we went up another hill. We didn't have to wear boots today, because the mud had dried. But instead of the mud it was very very sunny. So hot and sunny. So we we're baking going up the hill. But the sights we're fantastic, wonderful fields basking in the sun.

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Bau and some helpers thought I needed extra attention-probably because I was 20+ years older than everyone else. One asked how old I was?I told her and she said "Wow you are strong". That doesn't sound like a complement. It's just like finding out someone is 100 years old and saying they look good-which you really don't mean. At one point, I did fall down a slight hill-but I was fine. They thought I was injured-but I was fine.

A liittle while longer we reached a waterfall, and some of us, including myself, went swimming in the waterfall. The water felt great after hiking for a few hours. We splashed around, although the rocks hurt under my feet.

After the swim, we walked down a path down the mountain. Bau showed us a traditional water pump, and a machine for turning thread into clothes that is foot operated. A little while longer, we reached a road about 45 minutes later, where a van picked us up and drove us to the homestay. We enjoyed a lunch of meat, rice, and pumpkin. We said out goodbyes, and a van took us back to Sapa, where we waited just 20 minutes, and took the 6 hour ride back to Hanoi. I went out to dinner for something in a bun, and then went back and went to sleep.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 19:33 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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