Posts Tagged ‘Pho’

Stunning scenery in Ninh Binh

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

We arrived in Ninh Binh last night at 9.30. We decided to take an early night, in order to get up early, and botched miserably as usual… After our usual breakfast pho, we headed off on a rented moped around 11am. The destination was Tam Coc, where there are karst formations of the same kind as in Ha Long Bay. The limestone has been thrust up from the old seabed and then been withered by wind and water in much the same way, but the difference is that here Rowing with feetthey are on land. A slow river meanders between the rice paddies, and curls around the jutting karst spires, except where the water has cut a hole straight through them. We hired a flat bottomed sampan, and were rowed up the river, and through three of the caves. The lady rowing, alternated between using her arms and using her legs to push the oars! We even put our strength to use with a paddle ourselves, when we got bored of just sitting and looking.

Our timing turned out to be as perfect as could be, since we had the river to ourselves almost all the way. Only at the very end did the next bus loads of day trippers from Hanoi start moving rank and file up the river, with only a few meters between each sampan. The best moment on our whole 2 hour boat trip, was when our rower stopped rowing in a narrow, uninhabited valley, and the silence was so intense we could hear our own breath… That’s a first in Vietnam, even for Annikken who has spent months here earlier!

After the boat trip, we headed further into the karst scenery on our moped, until the road ran out… There we were befriended by a deaf road construction worker, who insisted on showing Gjerulf a small, deserted valley over a low ridge. It was a short trip in dense jungle, but it was like entering a different world! With his communicative sign language, he explained that the valley was home to both monkeys and huge snakes. Meanwhile, Annikken helped a Vietnamese family build the foundation for a new house… She lifted heavy rocks, tried her hand at chiseling a rock, and helped apply the mortar. At first they were making fun, and pointed to a big rock they wanted to have carried over. Their faces changed rapidly when she just smiled, picked up the big rock, and asked where they wanted it… When she lifted her arms and flexed her muscles to show how strong a Norwegian woman is, they lauged happily at her antics.

After lunch, we just drove around for a while, until the sun set between the limestone towers. As we write this, we are waiting for the sleeper bus to come and take us to Hue and on to Hoi An.

Hoi An

Friday, April 10th, 2009

The week before we got to Hoi An was spent in Nha Trang. Due to heavy rain, Annikken thought she deserved a day at the SPA where a body scrub, hot stone massage, manicure and pedicure was on the menu. She was pampered and cuddled and returned to Gjerulf a happier more energetic woman. Meanwhile, Gjerulf took a boat trip around the islands outside Nha Trang in the rain… He enjoyed it, but Annikken did the same trip three years ago in beautiful sunshine, and felt it couldn’t be topped.

The week also contained a refreshing trip to Thap Ba hot springs, with mud bath, mineral baths and mineral showers. After having spent a good week in Nha Trang, we took the sleeper bus to Hoi An, of which Gjerulf has heard a lot lately. In 2006 Annikken spent three months studying here, and this visit is a trip down memory lane, and at the same time rediscovering Hoi An. In the first two days here she has shown Gjerulf her favorite Breakfast Noodle Soup place, her favorite dinner restaurant, her favorite bar, her favorite French Bakery, her favorite beach, and her old study centre, where she also had time to go every once in a while… After the first night, in the first hotel we happened to drop in at after a sleepless night on the bus, we also went to see the hotel where she used to stay. Due to Annikken’s old contacts (who still remembered her name!), her charm, and the fact we’re here off season, we’re now staying in a 45 dollar room for 15 dollars, with air con, a balcony, a bath tub, and breakfast included. We met some nice people at her favorite bar, and headed with them out to Cam Nam Island, to a bar called King Kong, where we put our names on the wall, where hundreds of other travellers had done the same.

Hoi An is known for the food, the laid back atmosphere, the Unesco World Heritage listed old town, and last but not least the numerous tailors crowding every street of the city! They are known for their low prices and good workmanship, and we spent the main part of our second day here shopping for clothes. Annikken was getting some dresses and tops made for her and her friend, and Gjerulf was getting a couple of kaftans. In the evening, we headed out to King Kong again, to meet some guys we’d met the night before.

Our third day was spent at the stunningly beautiful beach, where the beach hawkers also recognized Annikken! 🙂 That evening the moon was full, and Hoi An celebrated it’s full moon festival. There were lanterns lit and put on the river, cultural shows on boats and improvised stages around the old town, and even a martial arts show, and we met up with our friends from King Kong bar.

Both of us got quite sunburned on the beach that day, so on our forth day rented a motorbike went to Marble Mountain, an extraordinary piece of geography (or is it geology?) about 20 kilometers from Hoi An, named for the amazing marble extracted from it and the surrounding hills. The steep sides of the hill had steps going up to temples, pagodas, caves and view points, and in the village surrounding it, more than half the shops were stone cutters! On the way there on our rented moped, a vietnamese woman drove up beside us and started chatting. It turned out she lived just next to Marble Mountain, and ran a stone cutting business there with her family. She let us park our moped there for free, and Annikken struck a good deal with her on a marble mortar and pestle when we were done sightseeing. Next to Marble Mountain is China Beach, where we went to “Hoas Place” for dinner. Hoa himself was playing poker with a Canadian and an Australian, and was very drunk, even though it was only 4.30. He kept telling us to take it easy, and gave us lots of hugs when he realized Annikken had been there in 2006… The food was great, especially the spring rolls, but we forgot to sign the guestbook before we left, even though we had planned to find Annikken’s last entry in the back log of over 20 books!

Today we are headed to Hanoi, to renew Gjerulf’s visa. At the airport in Saigon he was given a 15 day visa, instead of the 30 day one he was supposed to get, and we found this out only after it’d run out, so he’s hoping fervently it won’t cost a fortune in fines… Although we had not planned to go to Hanoi quite yet, we’re not all that sad to leave, considering the weather forecast has predicted rain all of next week! We’ll rather come back later and get some sunshine. 🙂

Nha Trang – Backpacker Central

Monday, March 30th, 2009

March 29
Yesterday we got up at 6am, and were picked up by our diving outfit outside our Guest House at 7.30, after showers and a rice-noodle soup breakfast. We were driven to the harbour, and it turned out we were the only two divers on boat, so we had the crew of three all there only for us. At first we were a tad nervous that we’d ended up with a unserious outfit, and that everyone knew but us, but our misgivings faded when we saw how professional they were, and how well they treated the equipment.

The boat ride out to Hon Mun (Mun Island) National Marine Park took about 50 minutes, time we spent relaxing in the morning sun on deck, and then preparing our equipment. We got in the water shortly after arrival, and started our first dive at just before 9am. The site was Madonna Rock, by the tiny Hon Rom, outside of Hon Mun. We went down to about 17 meters, and wished we had an under water camera! The colours of the corals weren’t quite as breathtaking as we might’ve fantasized about, but the fishes were really nice. Being on the seaward side of the island, the swells could actually be felt as deep as 10 meters, pushing us forward, then pulling us back gently. Having turned around to head back, we swam through a little tunnel under a big rock, where the swell was felt particularly strongly. As we headed up through the cave, the water was literally teeming with fish! They were everywhere, in bright yellows and blues! Annikken also saw a Murene, but Gjerulf didn’t see it, as it was hiding under a small overhanging coral. The fish were small to medium, some flat, some long, some round, some with a funny looking beak, all the shapes of fish we’ve only seen in pictures before!
As we came back to the boat and started to ascend, we both got burnt a little by some jellyfish threads or something, but the stinging subsided rather quickly when treated with normal vinegar. The first dive was 40 minutes. The boat left Hon Rom, and headed a couple hundred meters up to the Northern Reef divesite, also known as DeRice Bay on Hon Mun. While we were waiting for our second dive, Annikken was enjoying the sun on the sun deck, while Gjerulf did a little snorkeling.

Unfortunately Annikken experienced a little trouble with pressure compensation, and sat out the second dive, while Gjerulf went in alone with our Divemaster, Bâng. The second dive started about 10.30, lasted 48 minutes, and went to 14 meters. Being a reef this time, the corals were more impressive in size and colour but the fish were smaller and a bit more scarce, and mainly flitted in and out of the corals. On this dive Gjerulf also got to see a Murene lurking under a rock, and a couple of the more decent size fish had colourings that looked as if God had just done a splatter image with the most intense colours on his palette! Back on board, we started to head back to shore again. Bâng’s English was not as good as he would’ve liked it to be, and he was studying to learn more. On the way back, he brought out his English text book, and recruited Annikken as a tutor! The lesson of the day was practicing the use of “to lend.” 🙂 Back at the dive store, the lunch that was included in the price was waiting for us.(!) There was a LOT of food, just for the two of us, and we hadn’t even gotten particularly hungry yet, so we ate a polite amount, and headed back for a surf on the net, and a bit of a rest and refreshing at the Guest House.

In the evening we hit the town with the other backpackers, at the Red Apple Club. It was a nice little place, with dancing going on, and other travellers out to have a good time. Gjerulf got to talking to a group of British beach bums, and a Norwegian backpacker couple, while Annikken met a couple of Swedish/Norwegian firefighters, with whom we, like almost everyone else, headed over to the Sailing Club, a night club at the beach, where they had a beach party going on. There was good music, dancing on the sand, and loads and loads of people, and we didn’t head home till past 2 in the am! All night, Annikken’s poison of choice was only Tiger beer, and she enjoyed it! (Imagine the looks on our faces, when we were getting our first drink for the night, and Annikken orders beer, and Gjerulf a Mojito…)

This morning we slept long, and woke up glad that neither of us drank much last night. We met up with the Swedes at the beach, rented some beach beds, and stayed there till the sun started to set. For tonight, Gjerulf has his eyes set on a place with music and atmosphere very much to his own taste, while Annikken is headed back to the Red Apple Club with our Swedish friends.