Tag Archives: boat

My dream place

This is the story of a random last minute decision – not uncommon when you travel – that took me to an amazing place with amazing people. Right at the end of my trip.

This is how it started.
I was about to fly back to Vietnam from Lao, and still hadn’t decided where to spend the following week. The last week of my trip. I wanted the sun and the beach, but I already been to Phu Quoc and Con Dao. And Mui Ne and Nha Trang had zero appeal for me. Should I go back to the mountains instead?

Then I remembered Quy Nhon. A friend had mentioned it to me as a place relatively off the main tourist trail. Worth checking it out! The fact that there are direct flights from Hanoi, and at reasonable prices, played a part in the decision too. I checked on Tripadvisor: there’s a guesthouse by the beach in a fishing village! It’s called Haven. It sounds like my dream place :-).

Bai Xep beach

Within 24 hours I had booked flight and accommodation. And two days later I arrived at Bai Xep, fishing village 10km from the city of Quy Nhon.

Just like in my dreams the beach was outside our front door, and was dotted by fishermen’s round boats. A handful of rocky islands in the sea in front of us. No tourists apart from us in the small guesthouse.

I fell in love with it within seconds!

My days there were made of walks along completely empty beaches, suntanning (best tan I have had in decades!), eating delicious food cooked at the guesthouse, watching the locals hanging out at the beach, walking around the village, chatting with the other guests and with the lovely guesthouse management.

One morning we also hopped on one of the round boats and then onto a fisherman’s boat for a trip around the islands! So nice…

And how can I forget Kitty, the sweetest kitten ever?! She was very unwell and didn’t move much, and all you wanted to do was cuddling her.

I miss Kitty...
Unfortunately Kitty died few days after I left…

What an amazing place! What an amazing time!
I had planned to stay 3 days. I extended it to 5. And tried to extend further, but logistic issues prevented me from delaying my departure from Vietnam.

I left one day after lunch – crying like a baby.
I felt I had been locked out of heaven….

The amazing landscape around Ninh Binh

When Tom and Norma, whom I met at the Nguyen Shack homestay in the Ninh Binh area, asked me if I wanted to join them for a half day trip to Trang An I said Yes even if I had no idea what was there to see. After all I had no plans for the day.

We rode our bicycles for about 5Km on very muddy and rough terrain (Tough Mudder, here I come!) and when we arrived at the Trang An pier we paid 150,000 dong entrance fee and got on a small boat, joined by a Vietnamese men.

For the following two and a half hours, our boat woman took us around (rowing sometimes with her hands and sometimes with her feet!) amongst amazing limestone hills. We visited several grottoes, where we often had to duck down, we got off the boat to see pagodas dotted along the river, but mainly we enjoyed the fantastic scenery.
This is Ha Long Bay on land!

Inside one of the grottoes
Inside one of the grottoes
On the river
On the river
More limestone hills
More limestone hills

There were several other boats on the river, but overall it wasn’t busy. The area is mainly visited by Vietnamese tourists, while Westerners seem to go to Tam Coc instead.

After the boat tour, we cycled further to reach Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam (10th-11th century), but we decided not to visit. We had been advised that there was not much to see there. So instead we turned into a side road and through two tunnels to reach the “secret valley”. In front of us another set of limestone hills like a natural theatre. Absolutely stunning!

Your travel blogger in the "secret valley"!
Your travel blogger in the “secret valley”!

After this, I think I will give Ha Long Bay a miss! ;-)

Update 27 June 2014: at the 38th session of the World Heritage committee (15-25 June 2014, Doha) Trang An was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.