During our second week in northern Vietnam, we thought we’d check out some… wait for it … cool rocks. We spent 3 days and 2 nights in and around Ninh Binh, called “the Halong Bay on land,” and Cuc Phuong National Park. We hired a tour company to do this because of all the transit logistics. Ethnic Travel is what they’re called, and though they’re a bit heavy on the branding and a bit light on the flavorful food, they got the job done. Our guide, who asked to be called Jack Sparrow, was a cool dude. The first day involved a bike tour, a boat tour, and a cooking crash course on looking very cheesy.
On day 2, we joined a fun Australian family to explore Cuc Phuong National Park, known for its very own langur monkey, said to be wearing white shorts because of its pattern of hair. We toured the park’s primate and turtle rescue centers, which rehabilitates animals who’ve landed on hard times. We then hiked ~7km to a 1,000 year old tree.
On day 3, the fun continued with more boating, and some very lucky sightings of langurs in the wild. We then toured a thriving floating village. It’s not clear why they call it a “floating” village since it’s almost entirely on land, but you get the point.
After parting ways with our tour and new friends, we spent a brief night in Hanoi where we managed to find a respectable place to get a hair cut. I paid a premium for this nice place with young, hip dudes (and A/C). It cost 250,000 VND (about $11).
We spent the next 3 days and 2 nights in Halong and Bai Tu Long Bays with Handspan Travel. Amanda booked without much of my input, but she picked a winner! Our boat, the Treasure Junk, was more treasure than junk. The food was surprisingly good and the other guests, mostly around our age, were awesome. The beauty of Bai Tu Long Bay is that it’s farther out and therefore less frequented by the tour companies (only two tour companies are allowed to operate in this area). If you’ve got 2 nights instead of 1 to spare on the water, opt for the less traveled bay.
The tour of Bai Tu Long Bay concluded our time in the north of Vietnam. That night, we headed to the airport and flew to Saigon to see Aunt Merryl and southern Vietnam. More on that later.