We exited the transfer boat into a crowd of new travellers coming onto the boats…and taxis/vans picking people up….and I had a voice mail!  OK…I am not so tech savy but usually I know how to check my messages…but overseas even this technological feat has evaded my skills…..so I have no idea what the message says from 06542783 Vietnam!

What’s a girl to do….but call the number back.  I SERIOUSLY HATE this at home when someone calls me and says…”Were you calling me?  I see your number on my phone!”  If I had wanted to leave you a message I would have and now you HAVE MY PHONE NUMBER. ARGH!  Oh well…not at home…so I call the number.  A male non-English (presumed Vietnamese) speaking voice answers.  “Hi, I am Deb Trenholm.  Are you looking for my family?  Are you the transfer to our homestay in Ninh Binh?”…followed by a whole bunch of noisy incomprehensible Vietnamese!

Luckily I have a smart daughter.  She is scanning the crowd as I am calling.  She says “Mom!  Look over there…that man is talking on his cell phone!”  and sure enough as I look – he is passing his phone to a Vietnamese lady and in my ear comes a female English speaking voice!  “Hello”!

YEAH!!!!  We have found our driver!  Dan (ok, not his real name but the best we could do with his lack of ability to articulate his name for us and our overwhelming lack of ability to understand it!)….DAN it is!  Dan is our driver.  He walks us and our bags through the crowds of people and with great anticipation of what vehicle he will choose (it is always an adventure to see what donkey cart, beater car, van or limo you will be driving in!)….he walks us right up to a BRAND SPANKING NEW VW SUV….oh ya!  Sweet ride, leather seats and a back massager….you rock DAN!

We set out on a 4ish hour drive south to Ninh Binh.  I sit in the front most of the drive due to car sickness potential.  Lots of local “sights” with the carts, bicycles, towns and more rural landscape that we pass.  Dan and I don’t talk much…it seems that our VietnaEnglish chitchats aren’t that rewarding for either of us!

As we get closer I get more anxious about the home stay where we are headed.  I looked again at the pictures…it looks nice….but we had seen some “homestay” versions on CatBa island and I wonder just what we are getting ourselves into….but TRUST Evelynn…she knows what she is doing.  Well, that is until we drive basically through Ninh Binh town and out into the rural villages….and then turn off the sealed road down the side road….which quickly becomes dirt…which quickly becomes impassable due to diggers, mud, concrete pipes etc strewn across the “roadway”!  I guess this is where the fancy VW stops!  Out we get….and….

Our host Luong greets us with a big smile.  AhPhu Homestay is very nice!  Fresh juice, warm welcomes and the kids get to pick which “big room” we get.  They pick the one with hammocks outside…NICE job kids!  Luong and his wife and kids are super lovely (and make GREAT FOOD) and the room is clean, spacious, lots of hot water and very fast wifi…..OK….Trust Evelynn!

For two days in Ninh Binh we explored the local area on motorcycles.  Luong says …three bikes….therefore Lulu and I share…and our driver is …..none other than DAN! (wearing the same long sleeve wool sweater and pants….the Vietnamese think it is cold out as it is fall to them).

I will try to do justice to the motorcycle adventure in pictures below.  We had a GREAT time and the drivers were lovely, safe and very accommodating.  They walked us up to the ticket counters and spoke Vietnamese to get us our tickets, they acted as tour guides and they took us to some very local eateries for lunch.  Always smiling.  Always willing to stop for pictures.  Thank you Luong for setting us up with the motorcycle men and thanks drivers for the great adventures.

Ducks everywhere!

some obstacles….

…..we go under

bulls bathing next to our “road” (aka path)

Lulu with a virtual hug for Marley!

DUCK in the caves or you will hit your head

Wilson and caves!

more dark caves with Lulu ducking for cover

the light at the end of the cave

beautiful green landscape

at least there are lights in the caves

It always seems that the temples are UP the stairs

nice temples

Temple from the lake in Trang An

sweaty stair climbers

nice bridge for pictures

When Wilson is left alone with my phone…selfies…like his DAD!


The cemeteries

Ornate graves

More graves

Temple in the old capital Hoa Lu

Dragon Bed (in the stone box)

Cemeteries in the strangest places

FUN on the motorcycles

Chicken coop —for YOU JOHNNY

farming…again for you JOHNNY

…more interesting cemeteries

Happy Buddha

Turtle – sacred here

Wilson the lion!

Bai Dinh Pagoda

all the steps with Buddhas

I loved the three tiered temple with all the Buddhas…rub them for good luck…I think we rubbed ALL 500! My all time fav was the HUGE stone guy at the top of this post.

More temples and Buddha…

The “roads” the motorcycles took us on!

…with some more obstacles

..and more wildlife

and more ducks!

This is how they separate and dry the rice…with the cars driving over it…very hygenic!

Crazy parcels on scooters

Crazy things to buy at the roadside! (That’s a goat)

..horse riding before the hike up the stairs at Mua caves


The view of Tam Coc from the top of 500 steps

The boys climbed the Dragon -lying dragon mountain after all

Wilson and I climbed to the other peak (another 350 steps)

HELLO from over here!

then we climbed down

…and ran into a bride coming up (she looks impressed)

…and a bridesmaid!

Lulu overheating (but she did get icecream for climbing all the steps!)

motorcycle selfie

…the construction road at our homestay –Wilson on the motorcycle after a long day exploring

more interesting scooters

and bikes

Last stop..another boat ride in VanLong nature reserve. We weren’t as impressed as at Trang An….esp because of the mucus problem our boat paddler seemed to have….and his squeaky oar…CREEK a hundred thousand times!!!…but Lulu put up with it….and played in the water to catch seaweed and a snail!

The highlight?!…Can you find the monkeys??

Thanks for coming along on our motorcycle adventure….NEXT up…how many lives will we lose on our car ride to Mau Chau?