North Vietnam - Ninh Binh | Day 2

The next day we decided to go to Hang Mu and Trang An.

It was the hottest that day, and even the taxi guy kept shaking his head probably wondering why we were there.

Anyways, so we reached Hang Mua and paid an entrance fee of 100,000 dongs each, and walked towards Hang Mua oblivious of what was in store for us. There is also an lodge inside the area and it is beautifully maintained with artificial ponds and small waterfalls. A giant sign of Hang Mua, a beautiful bridge, and swings all made this a beautiful walk.

We reached the starting point, and looked up to see steep steps. Mentally I was a little worried, as I was on day 01 of my menstrual cycle (TMI? well you already read it). But onwards and only onwards we go.

I literally had to mentally push myself and the heat wasn’t helping at all. We took more breaks than we could count. My body was all fired up with the heat and humidity and I was almost on the verge of giving up. But a little voice inside my head egged me on and I thought aloud, well we do have all day left. My mom, stopped mid 80%. I was so amazed at her sheer strength and will to go on. We found a small shop and I asked my mom to wait there, while I try and reach the top. I sat there, gathered my breath and went on. It wasn’t an easy one for me.

I sang many songs in my head, visualized how I would feel all the way up and with all the strength I could muster I climbed on. It’s amazing how our physical body reacts to our mental courage. It’s something that always keeps me going. Prepare yourself to be mentally strong, everything else follows.

I finally reached the top and lo behold I had some gorgeous views. I fancy mountains, and hiking, rocks, and all the raw stuff that nature is made of. I can go on and on about how the view made me feel. But there was one emotion that I felt on top, and that was pride. I was proud of myself and my mom, for even attempting the climb. I went a bit emotional, and thanked God for letting me believe that I could and that I will and that I can always go on from there.

Now back to the Hang Mua (clears head space). There is a long dragon (no surprise there) sitting atop rocks that resemble stalagmites. The surface is uneven, and has pointy corners and spaces in between rocks. So be extremely careful. There is no safety harness or something you can grip except the dragon. Since it was a little crowded I didn’t walk to the edge (also, I was worried/scared). But I did sit there and took in the greens of the rice paddy, contrasting with the muddy browns of the water dotted with bobbing human heads. The view is something I’d urge you to not miss, It’s beautifully breathtaking and worth the hike.

From there it was an easy task downhill, we both went down effortlessly and were excited to go on to the next leg of our adventure – Trang An ecotourist boat ride.

Trang An is Halong bay on land. It has 3 different routes, all priced similarly with similar duration. Route 1 is the most sought after, but didn’t include the King Kong set, so I chose route 2 instead.

My mom and I bought our tickets and got ready to be burnt on a boat (not kidding). But the highlight was the fact that we got the whole boat to ourselves along with a rower and a ‘guide’ who didn’t do anything ‘guide like’. He didn’t come with us to any of the places, didn’t tell us anything about the caves, temples, or at any stopovers. He was meh.

So mom and I did our own exploration, hatched our own genius history based on silly facts and evidence and had a lot of fun exploring. The water isn’t very deep and runs clean. What I did like about the guide was that he collected plastic garbage (we had a few) dumped in the water. Also, when we were waiting for our boat to arrive post the king kong set, there were a few indigenous tribe who came and collected the trash (mainly plastic bottles).

It really annoyed me to see how people so conveniently trash places they go visiting. Please do carry a trash bag with you and keep all your trash with you till you find a dustbin. It’s the least we can do!.

We were famished post the boat ride, and gorged on some more Pho for me and mom had fried rice with beef.  I was feeling really bad for my Mom who has had spicy food all her life and was made to eat Vietnamese food (not complaining, I loved it), but she was acing it everywhere. I hope I’m as adventurous and ballsy as her when I’m her age.  

Post lunch we visited Phat Diem church. It’s a beauty in itself. Reminded me of the old houses back in kerala. My mom found out that there was a bell tower, and we tried as much as possible to visit it. But language was a problem even with Google translate, and I was way too tired to try further. So we left from the church and went back to our guest house, ready to shower and rest before our train to Hue.

North Vietnam - Halong Bay

Halong Bay

For our next leg of Northern Vietnam, I chose to go for a Halong Bay tour. If you visit Hanoi, you MUST go visit Halong bay. It’s so worth it. I booked with Rosa Boutique cruise for a 2 day 1 night experience and it was the best thing ever! We were picked up from our home stay and then went on a 4 hour journey to Halong Bay.

I slept through most of it. There’s something about a nicely moving vehicle and sleep – aaaah bliss!

We arrived at the bay, and there were cruise boats everywhere we looked. People calling out, boats coming in and taking people to the cruise ship (is it a ship). It was a market of boats and ships, but a nicer one.

We waited patiently (or not) for our turn and has a boat take us to our Cruise boat. It was the most beautiful 2 days with breathtaking sceneries, it was so overwhelming and blissful to see the sun set over fluffy clouds. Nature is so beautiful, I just couldn’t have enough of the Limestone Mountains submerged in water, the beauty of all that is just beyond words.

We went kayaking (unfortunately I didn’t have pictures of this). Kayaking was a fun experience. Neither I nor my mom knew how to paddle or swim. I’m hydrophobic and the water ran pretty deep (it’s so hilarious). Anyways, we make our way and started paddling for our dear lives and figured how it worked, and then it was all easy. I felt I have been paddling all my life except when faced with other kayaks (lol).

We had karaoke, cooking class, squid fishing, cave visit, Tai Chi class, and amazing service on the deck. The cave is one the biggest cave, and there are many more still being found. How exciting is that!

Halong Bay was an amazingly beautiful and relaxing experience. If you do come to Hanoi, Halong bay is a must visit. I’m 100% certain you won’t regret it.