Our Asia Trip Diary – Part Ten

Check out part 9 here!

It’s Monday 4am and we’ve just got dropped off by the night bus in Ninh Bihn. We’re very happy the guesthouse owner is still awake and let us in our room. It’s completely dark but right next to the guesthouse we can see the outline of a huge rock formation, we’re in the middle of this gorgeous landscape!! We try to catch some sleep since we didn’t get a lot on the bus. After breakfast at the guesthouse, we take two bicycles and discover the neighbourhood. It seems like we landed somewhere straight out of the movies. Wow, how gorgeous is this place? 

On Tuesday we take the bikes for some more exploring. We head to Bich Dong Pagoda, which is a special temple up on a hill and inside a cave. We think the entrance is the prettiest part of the complex. After some good bahn mi, we drive to the hotel for a siesta. 

In the afternoon we bike to Trang An. This landscape complex is full of limestone karst peaks surrounded by valleys. The perfect location for a boat tour! We share a small boat with another couple. A lady is paddling us through the valleys. We drive through different caves and along some temples. It’s foggy and it gives the whole experience something mysterious. It’s truly incredible.

The first thing we do on Wednesday morning is climbing up to Hang Mua viewpoint. We skipped this yesterday because it was too foggy. We want to see the view from above, and today it’s less cloudy. We’re ready for it! We climb up the 500 stairs in the heat to have a nice view of Ninh Bihn. We even climb a little further to stand at the dragon on top. Somehow this rock is pretty crowdy and although I don’t have a fair of heights, I’m scared and want to go down again. The view is not as great as we thought it would be. Maybe we are already too spoiled after all these weeks of travelling? 

Today we’ve opted for a scooter so we can expand our exploration a bit further. After the climb, we take a shower and have some lunch. Then, we drive to Bai Dinh Pagoda. We already see the huge pagoda from afar. But when we’re nearby, we can’t find the entrance… The temple complex is huge and we keep on driving to find where we can enter. We struggle around, and we’re definitely not the only ones.

We’ve read that you can enter the complex for free when you are walking. So, that’s what we do. We don’t want to pay for an electric car to bring us to the complex, we can perfectly walk ourselves. But appears that we have to pay for that car, to enter the complex. We think it’s all ridiculous. And after I had a big discussion with the parking lady because she was also scamming us, we just take our scooter and leave. 

The last stop for today is Van Long Nature Reserve. This reserve is quite similar to the famous Trang An. It’s just as beautiful, if not prettier. The place is even more peaceful as there are almost no tourists. This time we have a boat for ourselves. We have a lovely ride and there is no one else on the water! We’re making some great memories here!

Thursday we’re travelling to Cat Ba, an island near Ha Long Bay. We have a six-hour bus ride. This includes the ferry to the island. We are dropped off in front of our hotel. We’re tired but so happy! We have a room with an amazing view! We immediately decide to book an extra night so we can have some rest here. 

It’s a rainy day on Friday. We postpone the boat trip we’ve planned to do to tomorrow. We stay in. We write a new blog post, this time about our travel budget in Seoul. And we watch some shows. Even for dinner, we stay in the hotel. We order hot pot and have some calls with our families in the evening.

Saturday morning we are picked up by a taxi that drives us to the harbour. We’re going on a boat tour! That’s what we’re here for. We’re sailing through Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay. The landscapes are amazing! Our first stop is a hidden cave. Our tour guide tells us that we have to swim to it, then crawl through the cave and find a magic hidden jungle! It’s again a grey day, which why we question ourselves if it’s a good idea to jump into the water. But we do, because obviously we cannot miss this! The water is not as cold as we imagined and swim to the cave entrance. We can stand in front of the cave on some soft sand. We have to crawl underneath the enormous rocks to continue. On the other side we catch a glimpse of light. After tiger crawling underneath the rock, we arrive in an open area surrounded by nature and enormous rocks all around us. There are tons of cairns (aka “rock stacking”) inside and through a small crack we can reach the beach on the other side and swim back to our boat through yet another cave.

Next up on the route, we’re stopping for some kayaking. It’s lovely to kayak on these waters. We go through some more caves and cruise around. Afterwards, we get a great lunch on the boat. 

In the afternoon we have one more stop for swimming. Afterwards we drive through a fascinating fishers village as we’re heading back to the harbour. 

On Sunday we sleep in. And then it’s time to pack again. We’re taking a twelve-hour sleeper bus up north! 

You might already hear that we’re tired! We want to slow down a bit but that’s hard. There is just so much to see and do! We need to leave the country in two weeks and want to go to three more destinations. Afterwards, we promise ourselves to take it slower and get some rest. 

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