After cycling for some time (see my previous post here), I made my way to the ultimate attraction – Trang An. It was about an hour of cycling, maybe a little more, as I would stop to take pictures along the way. After all, I was surrounded by this incredible natural beauty. I was in the midst of what is known as Halong Bay on land. Now, what you need to do is to take a boat tour through the Trang An scenic complex, one of the best, most marvellous things I’ve done in Vietnam and have seen in my life.
There are four different routes you can choose from to go on the tour. I was told by the kind waiter that routes 3 or 4 were the best, so I ended up doing route 4. This is also the longest, so it took us about 3 hours. Once on the boat – a paddle boat I may add – you will be lost in your surroundings, letting the beauty of your surroundings sink in. I would even suggest taking your camera off your hands, so you can just truly enjoy it. And to me what was most admirable was the number of temples built in the small islets where the boat driver would stop and let us off to explore.
Prepare yourself to be guided and taken to little islets with majestic temples, go into caves and grottoes, and be surrounded by green waters and high limestone karst peaks. This area has been invaded by the sea in the recent geological past, which shows that indeed this used to be just like Halong Bay. But most interesting is the vestiges of human activity that span over 30,000 years. For all of these reasons, the Trang An complex is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage.
It’s hard to describe this place because you have to be there to believe when I say that it feels out of this world. I could not stop thinking of how small we all really are in comparison to the wonders Nature has created, and how privileged I was to be a witness of such beauty, knowing that so many others before me had been there, knowing that long after I’m gone, this place will continue to be there, evolving, changing, who knows perhaps becoming sea once again. And the realisation of how awful humans can be to this planet hit me hard. As it had hit me in Halong Bay. At the end of the day, can Nature survive us? I truly hope so. And that we stop trying to kill it.
I had no idea about this, but it seems one of the islands was also a filming location for the movie Kong: Skull Island, the adaption of King Kong in 2017. Apparently, I could have encountered King Kong himself, as I was in his habitat! Looking at this trailer after coming back, I couldn’t stop painfully missing my time in Vietnam. I now have to go and watch the movie.
Some parts of the set were left behind for visitors, bust most of it was removed for conservation efforts and to ensure no damage is made in the area. These little huts are examples of it.
After it ended, I was of course starving. The only restaurant opened that was part of the complex was practically empty which didn’t inspire much confidence. But I needed to eat something, as at least a couple more hours of cycling were in front of me. So, I went in, and noticed only foreign tourists were also sitting around, and got the worst service ever. I looked at the menu and noticed there were not any options that didn’t involve meat, so I thought I would order some fries and spring rolls. Goat meat is the speciality of the region, but since I don’t eat red meats that were out of the question. Still, the waitress was insisting on me to have it, and I said now, I would only have the spring rolls and the fries. After a huge time of waiting, the worst-looking plate of fries was presented in front of me, and the spring rolls never came. Leaving half of those disgusting fries on the plate, I stood up, paid and left. To this day, I’m not sure if these were actually fries.
On this day I was convinced that it was in Ninh Bihn I found the only rude locals in my entire time in Vietnam. But it was ok because I was still having the time of my life. And it’s all part of the experience, after all. I understand. Tourists can be annoying, but I just wished how much effort I’m making to ensure I cause as little disruption as possible!
This is all for today, but my adventures through Ninh Binh continued, so stay tuned!