Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Recuperation Day in Ninh Binh

The bus dropped us off on the main road in Ninh Binh in the wee hours of the morning and we then spent the next half an hour trying to find our hotel. When we did we were grateful that our room was already ready so we could take a shower as we hadn’t had one since our previous day’s riding adventures which had been directly followed by the overnight the bus trip. It was still before 7am and we were tired once we’d showered, so we decided to sleep till 8am and then head into town. However, when the alarm went off it was quickly silenced and we ended up sleeping until 11am.

Once we’d resurfaced we went to town to find out about tours and unfortunately we discovered that they were a bit expensive. At the same time we were trying to book ourselves a train from Hanoi to Sapa but everywhere we went said it would only be possible to book the ticket once we were in Hanoi. This was a little unnerving as it meant there would be a possibility of the train we wanted being booked out by the time we actually arrived in Hanoi where we could actually book a ticket. But it seemed there were no other options so we’d just have to hope it would work out later.

We walked passed a café offering the famous ‘weasel’ coffee (cà phê Chồn) which is coffee made from beans excreted by weasels. Arguably, the process improves coffee through two mechanisms - selection and digestion. Selection occurs as the weasels choose to eat only good coffee beans and then during the digestive process, where fermentation occurs, the flavour of the beans improves. Once we’d gotten over the idea of sipping coffee that had been excreted along with other faecal matter we quite enjoyed the taste – although neither of us were good enough connoisseurs to discern whether or not the coffee was indeed better than the others we’d tasted so far in Vietnam. Either way the caffeine hit was exactly what we needed.

After more searching and a tasty bowl of Phở Gà later, we gave up the search for a decent tour company and started to wander back to our hotel. On the way we passed an inviting café, which on closer inspection was not only a café but also a tour agency, furthermore it also sold the other coffee we were keen to try – an espresso with frothed egg yolk poured over it, resulting in a rich, creamy coffee. Not only was the guy who ran the place really friendly and great to chat too, he also offered us the cheapest tours we’d found , so we signed up for a tour to Cuc Phuong National Park for the day after next – on motorbikes, Dave’s second experience on such a contraption in Vietnam. 

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