No need to loiter in Ninh Binh
I suppose there is one good thing about Ninh Binh. One of the hotel workers managed to fix my shonky Vietnamese lighter which after about twenty attempts would send out a eyebrow singeing flame. Nowadays, it is usually about 3 attempts and the flame is more to my desired size!
Not that Ninh Binh is that bad. The scenery is awe inspiring, surrounded as the city is by the most amazing rock formations which are somewhat reminiscent of the islands in Halong Bay. Which could explain why some bright marketing dude has nicknamed the Tam Coc area "Halong Bay on the Rice Paddies". Genius!
I arrived by the dreaded sleeper bus at 4.30 am. It wasnt as bad as I had envisaged (always a good thing to hear people moan and moan and create an image which could never possibly be that bad) and did manage to get a few bursts of sleep. Trick was finding a comfortable position, which for me always seemed to put my face dead into contact with a freezing air con duct. The solution was to pull the blanket over my head and not worry so much about the tootsies. Upon arrival a dude was waiting to take me to his hotel and in my delerium I was eternally grateful as he shone the torchlight along the way. I awoke after a couple more hours sleep in my room to a feeling that I was really going to love this place. Those instincts can really be f'd up sometimes, eh?
Although I had not intended to do anything on that first day, I succumbed and took a motorbike tour, not really feeling up to cycling or my first attempt at riding a motorbike. It was probably a good idea, because if I had headed out on my own, I wouldnt have liked having to get back in the seething mood I was in. At least on the back of the bike, at the helm of my guide, I was able to enjoy the cool breeze and the amazing scenery.
Ninh Binh is the place where u should really really have a good read of your Lonely Planet and take stock of the few pertinent phrases that REALLY matter, such as: "This towns transformation has little to do with Ninh Binh itself" and "Ninh Binh is not exactly the gastronomic heart of Vietnam" and "Bring a healthy dose of patience and good humour to Tam Coc...no doesnt seem to mean no to these good people" and I think u get the point.
So what have we learned from this? That the food is pure merde, the town has nothing to offer apart from the - it must be said - amazing scenery and that the people are the rudest people I have ever met in Vietnam, or perhaps anywhere in the world! And I find that hard to say because both this tour and last, I found the people to be absolutely awesome and generous to the extreme. Not that this will put a dampener on my trip. Having been here for two days (the shortest stint anywhere on my travels) I will depart for Hanoi tomorrow and see if the weather will allow me to get to Sapa and Halong Bay. It will also be awesome to catch up with Taelor.
So, when I am able, I will upload some photos of my time here and you will be suitably impressed I am sure. However, as this is Ninh Binh, of course I am not able to do that here! I think that should suffice for this short. grumpy entrance. Onwards and upwards, as they say.