Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hai Phong to Ninh Binh smooth and flat ride lovin it!

The boat from Cat ba to Hai Phong was direct on a speed boat that coast about $7 each with our bikes. Hai Phong is Vietnams 3rd largest city and its most important sea port. We only spent one night resting for the next day ride to Ninh Binh, a long 130km ride our longest single day ride to date. We didn't stray too far from the hotel but we did manage to find some great duck noodle soup and some welcoming cafes, nice city with a smaller feeling. Next morning before sun rise we are off and picked up some bun mi (french bread sandwich with pork liver pate, veggies, chili's and grilled meats) breakfast of choice for Vietnamese. The ride was long, hot and dusty but good news no hills, nice views of rice fields and best of all loads of rest stops with cold drinks. 

lovely duck soup with noodles only $1.25

no space for cars at this intersection 
fresh peeled pineapple $0.30 cents each 
enjoying a cup of sweet Vietnamese coffee

We rolled in Ninh Binh, just before night fall and found a cheap family run hotel for only $7. Ninh Binh is small town with lots of hotels but not many place to eat. We checked out the lovely village of Tam Coc about 10km from town to see the breath taking views of the limestone hills along the Ngo Dong river. 

we ate at this same place a total of 5 times while in Ninh Binh,  best deal in town
riding through rice patties on our way to Tam Coc

boats lined up to take tourist around the river
helping out the young girl that was our guide

Next we are taking a 13 hr train ride to Hue, the old imperial city of the Nguyen dynasty.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Memorable time in Ha Long bay, Cat ba island one we won't like to relive

dusty road to Ha long bay
waiting for the ferry transfer this one was over capacity

It was a short but dusty 60km's from Cam Pha to Ha Long and our adventure was just starting. In Ha long we found the ferry to Cat ba island but what they didn't tell us we would need to transfer 2 times and we would arrive on the opposite side of the island about 40 km's from town. We rode for an hour of hilly roads and arrived at a fork in the road. We asked an old man, which way to Cat ba town, he told me with some body language that both roads lead to our destination but one was less hilly and we all agreed that less hilly was for us. We all got excited with less climbs but 30 minutes in we see a long steep hill. Half way up we spot a sign for the national park of Cat ba when we finally reached the park, it was getting dark and we meet the nice guy at the gate that spoke english. We asked if we could camp the night and see the park in the morning, he offered a basic room with 3 beds and hot shower for only $5 each and that included entry fee. He even arranged us to have dinner at his place because there was no restaurants around a simple dinner of rice, vegges, eggs and fish for $1.75 each.

up hill on the Cat ba island
now our down hill smiles
steep climb to the top of the mountain in Cat ba national park
taking in the views on top

Next morning we enjoy the park and rode the final 20km's to Cat ba town. The town was lined with restaurants, bars and accommodations. After finding a place to sleep $8 for a 3 bedroom, we decided to ditch the bikes and rent some scooters to see the hilly coast and beaches. What a horrible experience. The guys renting them all try to rip us off and they managed to with the gas, making us pay for filling up the almost empty tank, we believed they would fill it up and we would just return it full out another $7 bucks. The bad feeling quickly faded to smiles while riding a gas powered bicycle, after about 2 hour of riding and site seeing the gas gauge had not even moved. The sun was setting and we had to return the bikes before 7:30, while on our way back the transmission on my bike failed and we where almost 30km's from town. A passer stopped to help tow the bike back behind his Honda motorbike we paid him $5 for his help, after we asked the guy that rented us the bike to pay us back for the tow or even discount the rental because of the mechanical trouble and he just laughed in our faces. Not an overall great service experience, but thats enought of Ha Long bay for us, next day we are taking the ferry to Haiphong. 

beach 2 was a cozy cove with nice views of ha long bay
scooters was fun while it lasted but we got ripped off 
getting dark and scooter broke down, just enjoying the views
cat ba harbour
snake wine anyone?
view from our hotel room