thanh thuy's guesthouse

viet kids



viet kids





i arrived in ninh binh two nights ago from hanoi, took the open-ticket bus which was packed with almost all foreign travelers, a few confused vietnamese in the mix. my last day in hanoi was spent riding motorcycles (being a passenger), seeing ho chi minh's body (getting hit on by the ladies at the coat check), visiting an ethnology museum (the museum wasn't all that, but the replica houses in the backyard were fun to walk through), and getting vietnamese language lessons from some of the women workers at the pacific prince hotel. the bus dropped the few people who were getting off at ninh binh at some hotel. it was 10pm and raining and i didn't want to bother looking for another place so i decided to stay (the hotel turns out to be legit, mentioned in lonely planet, so it's well-traveled). 3 japanese people were drinking inside and immediately got all excited when they saw me, thinking i was japanese as well. "nihonjin ja nai, demo nihingo wakarimasu chotto, sukoshi." i got a room for US$5/night, private bathroom, two beds, A/C, a TV. i went downstairs and the japanese invited me to drink rice wine with them and chat. i told them i wasn't japanese, but took 3 years of japanese in college, and that i was just in tokyo. they were happy to practice their english. 2 of them were a couple and they actually live in saigon, traveling vietnam after selling their sushi restaurant. the 3rd fellow was a guy visiting every single country in eurasia (a 2 year journey, including iran and all the stans), from the middle east to eastern europe through southeast asia back to japan.

the next day i went to cuc phuong national park, which was all rainy when i got there (we had a driver, myself and 2 german girls), but i was so excited about naturing, i promised myself i'd come back the next day. even the 2 rats trapped in the public toilet didn't weaken my interest. after 4 hours of walking inside the muddy forest though, my shoes and pants splattered with brown, sweaty, tired, dehydrated, i decided this would be my only visit to cuc phuong. i didn't see any animals, but the scenery was very beautiful, like a cloud forest. after all that hiking, our driver took us to a monkey preservation park, where i saw langurs, which are the cutest monkeys in the world, so naturally they're very endangered (they're endemic to vietnam).

later that night, my new japanese friends and i went out for some special vietnamese duck hot pot. it was very tasty, the best food experience i've had since arriving. here in vietnam, you spit out your bones and throw your napkins onto the floor, which i didn't know about, but that'd explain the dirty floors. afterwards we came back to the hotel and indulged in some more rice wine and conversation. i think we made a lot of foreign travelers curious as to what we were drinking. i heard one of them say, "is that water?"

today, after checking out of my room, i rented a scooter and went riding in the countryside. it took a while to get used (no helmets required! and they didn't even check to see if i had a license or even knew how to ride a scooter), but once i got the hang of it, it was really fun. it was great, every so often i'd just pull over onto the side of the road to take a photo, so much green rice paddies, so much pretty limestone mountains. children on bicycles would shout "hello" to me while i passed them. i'd dodge all sorts of exotic things, from cow manure, to water buffalos, to chickens crossing the street. not so great: all the bits and pieces of bugs splattered on my face.

so now i'm back in town, waiting for my 9:00PM overnight bus out of ninh binh to hue. these buses are okay, and i think they're empty enough that everyone can have their own seat, but there's no bathroom on the bus, and i'm fearful of any attacks (i'm not in danger at the moment, but you never know. i had UNPROTECTED STREET FOOD again for lunch, some pho bo served under conditions that break several sanitation rules).

i'll grab some dinner and wait at the hotel.