Vietnam: The Long Unknown – Update 3
This blog covers the ride from Ha Long Bay to Ninh Binh, the Anna Tham Hotel, and our scenic boat ride. Distance covered; 190km. Tank fill; 80’000VND.
Total distance 345km.
Now that Clarence’s bike was running better, we left Ha Long Bay around 8.30am on the Sunday towards Ninh Binh. It meant several hours on the bigger longer sections of road. We worked out we couldn’t have been traveling more than 20-25km per hour on the last trip, so we hoped to push it a bit more where we could. The speedometers don’t work so we’ve no way of really knowing other than keeping up with the locals.
Turns out we could get them up to 30-40kph (even 60kph at one point **) , and we reached Ninh Binh Around 14.30. It still took longer then expected but we’re used to short stops to double check our directions, wee breaks, etc.
I suspect a breakdown will become a regular feature, and this update is no different. 180km or so down and Clarence’s chain slipped and came off. He was clever enough to get me to carry some tools for him (he knows his bike stuff). Half an hour later, caked in mud and oil, he got it running again and we trundled on to the hotel. Turns out it was only 2km away.
The Anna Tham Hotel is a lovely place. 4 floors, 12 rooms or so, hot water, free wifi, clean rooms and great food. It also has great views!
After check-in Clarence asked about getting his bike repaired. Again. Either a new motor or new gear box. 2nd and 3rd gear didn’t work very well (if at all), so something was going to have to be repaired at some point. The owners husband took it to a garage (cheaper if he takes it, as foreigners get ripped off) and it was left overnight. When it came back the next day it was running like new. Clarence described it as “a rocket”. Hopefully I can still keep up with him in the next journey.
On the Monday we took to using our feet rather than tyres and walked several kilometres around the area. There was a boat ride further up our road and so we paid 150’000VND to hire a boat. You also need someone to take you out, so that was another 120’000VND. We had a girl aged just 14 paddle us out, and it took two hours full circle. I felt guilty as sin somehow supporting child labour, but that’s how it is. Dozens and dozens of boats passed us by, either with really old paddlers or really young paddlers. They were making decent money for these rides. As a side note, they start the paddle out by rowing as normal. But within minutes they sit back and use their feet to row. It’s an odd thing to witness, but so normal for them.
On top of the admission and hire price for the boat we were also coaxed into buying snacks when we reached the first leg of the trip. They surround you in their own boats, chanting “beer, water, cola”. We didn’t want anything, but fell for one of their techniques when they suggested we buy something for the girl who’d paddled us out there. We caved and bought a few snacks, which came to 200’000VND. £6 for a coke and crisps.
On the way back another paddler lugged a bag into our boat. We assumed it was laundry being collected or dropped off. It was actually a bag full of purses our paddler was being coaxed into selling to us. We didn’t buy. This was becoming slightly frustrating.
We also fell for the guy taking snaps with his Canon camera from his own boat, who had suggested $1 for a photo. Of course he took 10 photos and managed to print, laminate and package two photo albums for each of us by the time we were on our return (yes, even though we were out in the middle of a lake). As impressive as that is, I’m not a fan of being ripped off. Demanding we buy all the photos and not just one, and also both albums for each of us, wasn’t quite the agreement we made. But do you argue? His price came to $30. That’s 640’000VND. And by seeing this, our paddler then suggested a tip. She wanted $5 before letting us off the boat. She got 50’000VND, $2.50USD.
Don’t get me wrong, the views were great and I’m happy to support the cause and pay my way. But being hassled isn’t my thing. And it’s becoming a regular thing. And that’s not good.
** “sorry mum!”.