After Jeremy took his leave and we mourned the departure of our third farkle player, we hopped on a bus to Ninh Binh (Ning Bing). Now, as was obvious in Hanoi during a few of our excursions, I am a much more relaxed planner than Jared is (which may surprise some who know how much I love to plan). This in combination with the fact that we had become accustomed to traveling with access to data and therefore instant real-time map updates, led to a humorous experience upon our arrival in Ninh Binh. I had found a hotel for us but did not make a reservation nor did I think to pre-load a map of the location. All I knew was that it was supposed to be 400 m from the bus station near the center of the city. That’s an easy walk! So we get off the bus and Jared is all “So. Where to now?” and I’m all like “Uhhh, how about this way…?” We cross a few streets and I navigated us in the direction that I felt the hotel would be, the growing frustration ever apparent on Jared’s face. As we are about to cross yet another street during our directionless journey, a man on a motorbike stops and asks us if we are looking for something. I said, "yes!" and showed him the name of the hotel. As a big toothless smile spread across his face he exclaimed, “That’s my hotel!” and showed us his business card as proof. We then got a free ride on the motor bike back to the hotel and all Jared could do was laugh about it and comment on my luck. We had originally planned to go to a nearby ancient village that evening but decided that neither time nor weather were conducive to the journey. Instead, we planned the next few days and went to the train station to purchase our tickets for onward travel.
The next day we booked a car to take us to Cuc Phuong National Park. This park has a primate center and a turtle conservation center on the grounds. Both were small but it was interesting to see different primate and turtle species in the context of conservation and rehabilitation. We went first to see the cave of a prehistoric man. It was actually quite spacious and we decided that the Prehistoric Hedges clan would have been able to live quite nicely inside the ancient walls. Next, we journeyed for 3 hours through the rainforest to see a thousand year old tree. Since we were in the rainforest, it was only appropriate that it rained on us the entire 3 hours. Good thing we were feeling especially positive that day because we were still able to enjoy ourselves despite the rain.
Look at all that lush green
Here's lookin' at you, tree.
Don't we look like professionals?
This is on the bridge where we rose to instant fame
10th century ruins
Would you like to go for a swim?
The rice fields are so luscious; they beckon to you to take off your shoes and walk through the fields but then you realize that you would just sink into the mud...
Beautiful flat rock ridge we encountered on our ride.
It's hard to tell in the photo but these are the rowers rowing away with their feet instead of their hands!
This waste basket was wishing happiness to everybody and I echo the sentiment!
From Ninh Binh we headed to Hue on a night train. Next up is our exploration of the DMZ.