Ninh Binh and Hue are a little less common on the Vietnam tourist trail, but not remote.
Ninh Binh could be a day trip from Hanoi, but I figured with a 2.5 hour drive each way, I may as well stay a couple of days. A big attraction are the limestone formations of Tam Coc, which are best seen from a boat. My hotel recommended Tràng An instead, which is similar but not as busy with tourists.
Some people call the area the ‘inland Halong Bay’ where I went on a day cruise from Hanoi. Whatever, it was a beautiful and relaxing two hours, and the sun came out!
The rowers were mainly women, and they knew the caves well to navigate through without us being knocked off by a stalactite. Truthfully, I had my head on my lap a few times, just in case, but means I didn’t get the photo!
Close by is Bai Dinh Pagoda, a huge 539 hectare site. This is a 80 hectare section that we barely touched despite an electric car from the parking lot and kilometres of walking.
We entered from the bottom gate
Along a covered walkway there are 500 Arahat statues. The black spots are where people rub them for good luck.
One temple housed the ‘largest in Vietnam’ Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.
The next temple had the ‘largest in Vietnam’ 10 metre Buddha.
And 10,000 little statues to add to a serious case of ‘gold overload’.
From Ninh Binh I had a choice of a 13 hour train or 1 hour flight to Hue…..
Vietnam Airline is excellent!
The driver to the airport not so relaxing. Straddling the lanes keeps their options open!
Hue was the seat of the Nguyen dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945.
The major attraction here is the huge 19th century Citadel, which is surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. The major entrance is Ngo Mon Gateway.
There are dozens of buildings, in every state of decay and restoration. It was heavily bombed during the French and American wars.
Hue also some food which is unique to the area. The street stalls aren’t as appealing in the pouring rain, so I found a little restaurant that does a set meal of the local food.
Banh Khoal is a folded-over crispy fried rice pancake with shrimp and pork. The staff are very helpful explaining how to eat everything. It is meant to be broken up and mixed in a bowl with peanut sauce and herbs.
Banh Beo are steamed rice cakes with chopped shrimp and crispy pork on top. You spoon some sweet fish sauce on top, use your spoon to loosen it from the little bowl, and eat it in one bite ‘like an oyster’
There were also fresh rice paper rolls with bbq pork, and fried springrolls
There was also a grilled pork wrapped on a lemongrass stalk that you wrapped in rice paper with herbs.
I couldn’t finish it all despite it being very good, and only 120,000 dong (CA$7)
The Vietnamese sub shop
Street cooking that smelled so good
It must be the French history, but it is always ‘Madame, madame’ as people want your attention to sell you something. But it is also at the hotel. I just came back in and it was ‘hello, Madame Leslie, room 410’ as she handed me my key. Really! You know my room number better than me!
Today a woman tried to sell me a poncho – and I was already wearing a raincoat and using an umbrella!
Tomorrow is an early train to Danang. It looks like rain there too, but 26 instead of 20oC. Maybe a poncho ‘breathes’ more’?