I should have done this earlier – map of Vietnam. To trace our path -start with Hanoi in the north – trips to Sapa mtns n/e of Hanoi, then Ha Long Bay – west; then we started to head south to the following cities – Ninh Binh (rural life); Hue (capital of Vietnam at one point) and DMZ area of war; Hoi An (great for tailoring and shoes – very French; Na Trang (premier holiday/beach/convention center location of Vietnam); Mui Ne (the best beach in Vietnam); Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ninh Binh – known for its rural setting, a national park, and this tourist attraction where you travel up this river (Tam Coc) in sampans, going through caves and rice fields. It’s incredible landscape (not as many western tourists stop here). You rent a sampan and they oar you up this river – 2 hours.
you go through 3 caves-tunnels
River life – the river was packed with tourists – mainly Vietnamese. Where there is a buck to be made, believe me, the nationals are there waiting – they will paddle up the river and wait for you at the end to sell drinks, food, etc.
Some have developed the skill of rowing with their feet!
We went to the outskirts of the city to see the rural life and rice growing. Talk about backbreaking work.
We rented motorbikes – yes – Josh got to drive one all by himself at age 14 – Natalie was on the back and “terrified” – actually he did real well. Since it was rural driving it was okay – city driving is another story in Vietnam.
Dinh Tien Hoang – temple – dedicated to Dinh Dynasty (968) – restored in 17th century
Bich Dong Pagoda – had to walk up into a cave where there were Buddhas and is a very spiritual place for Vietamese – kind of like a pilgrimmage
Shrine/temple area at top of mountain -500 steps to get up – great view of the surrounding countryside
looking down what we had to climb
The Tam Coc River we traveled up on the sampans
surrounding countryside and rice farming