From Pom Coong Village to Ninh Bình

The sky was still gray after a few days so I decided to go to Ninh Binh. Looked at the options on the map. Did not want to go the same road again. Decided to go on the QL 15 from Mai Chau – along the river and then the QL 217 towards the QL 45 and then to the Homestay. Turned out that this was a really stupid idea. Construction almost all the way till the QL 217. Average speed less than 20 km/h. Road conditions: mud and deep puddles of water or sand and dust – both not nice to ride a motorbike. The last 80 km I had to drive in the dark – took more than 2,5 hours since there are so many holes in the street and too much traffic and the bad light of the Yamaha. Most of the cars and trucks have the high beam on so you can not really see the road – a nightmare when the side of the road is wet and muddy.
The last kilometre was a dirt road between the rice fields. Without the smart phone impossible to find. Turned out that Chez Beo Homestay was more clever than the Homestay I intended to go. They where on Google Map and the other one not. So I went to the wrong place only to find out that there are no rooms.
The same second the manager told me that there are no rooms two girls left their room to announce that they have to go NOW to Hanoi Airport. Something happened back home and they needed a taxi right away. Good for me – now there was Room #8 – all empty and waiting for me.

Sand production
Sand production somewhere on te way

Too many bamboo sticks
Too many bamboo sticks – easy to fix! Unload till the truck comes down again. Carry up the hill and load the truck. Repeat at the next hill.

Lunch on the way
Lunch on the way

Sugar cane harvest
Sugar cane harvest

Propaganda on the way
Propaganda on the way

Chez Beo Homestay

Chez Beo Homestay is not really a Homestay – more a bungalow place with a restaurant. They offer dinner for 40.000 Dong – 1,65€ and it was “All you can eat”. Nobody leaves the table hungry. A big bottle of Ha Noi beer is 12.000 Dong – so we managed to empty the fridge ever day. Breakfast was included in the room rate (5 US $, double bed, table and a few chairs, fridge and a closet – shared shower and toilet) and lunch was 40.000 as well. For lunch they will prepare a meat dish with vegetables or a few vegetable dishes for the vegetarians. For dinner you can choose yourself from the table since everybody eats at the same time in the evening at 19:00.

Dinner at Chez Beo Homestay
Dinner at Chez Beo Homestay Everything I had was really good!

View from my room in the morning
View from my room in the morning – it was not cold but damp and misty. Imagine all the flowers when in season!

Cat in Ninh Bin Room no 8
Cat in my room – not like Pai but friendly as well.

One of the bungalows at Chez Beo Homestay
One of the bungalows at Chez Beo Homestay – they are really big and 12 US $ a pop for two people. Hot shower, toilet and breakfast included. Great value for money.

View from the restaurant towards the valley at Chez Beo Homestay
View from the restaurant towards the valley at Chez Beo Homestay. Two bungalows and two rooms are in the front of the place. The other bungalows down the valley along the river.

Further into the valley at Chez Beo Homestay
Further into the valley at Chez Beo Homestay

More bungalows at the back at Chez Beo Homestay
More bungalows at the back at Chez Beo Homestay

Water buffalos next to the hospital in Ninh Binh
Water baffalos next to the hospital in Ninh Binh. Looks like a scene of an end of the world movie. The gray sky for days does not make it better. Had to get my last rabies shot. Drove to Ninh Binh and went in the first hospital I found. A really big complex and they still build more as you can see in this picture. Had to wait a while for a Doctor and he explained to me that they do not have the rabies vaccine at the hospital. But round the corner in a separate building where all the kids get the shoots they have. He wrote everything down so no more explaining was needed. So after looking a while for the place and ask one guy that on the road I was in a waiting room full of kids and a few mothers. The Doctor asked Indian or French – I took the french – paid about 10€ – got my shoot and back to Chez Beo it was. It started to drizzle on the way back. Hmmmm

View from my room at Chez Beo Homestay
Fish outside my window at Chez Beo Homestay

View from the restaurant at Chez Beo Homestay
The next day rain in the morning – it was the day I wanted to drive back to Hanoi to meet Scott. My room was taken so there was no way back.

Lunch at Chez Beo Homestay
Last lunch – food was really good at the restaurant!

Adios Chez Beo Homestay
Midday the rain and wind stopped. Time to move. The place is on the left of the picture. Good Bye Chez Beo!!
If you want to stay at Chez Beo they have a homepage or you book them right away at the Chez Beo site at booking.com!

 
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From Hanoi to Pom Coong Village

Good morning Vietnam! Did check out of the North No 2 Hotel and walked to the motorbike place. On the way I had the usual breakfast: Coffee and a Baguette with juice.

Last coffee in Hanoi before the trip
Last coffee in Hanoi before the trip

The new Motorbike

Then: surprise surprise – my bike was gone. Did not really understand why but there was a Nouvo 3 that looked a lot better than the one from last evening. And the breaks where better too. So far so good. Next question: “Do you only ride in the city?” I told him yesterday and why would I need a rack and stuff if I only ride in the city? Now they wanted 500.000 more so the total was 2.000.000 Dong for 45 days. Still less than 2 US $ a day but a bit more from what it was last evening. What to do? Waste another day to look at backpacker bikes? Or take that one that looks and drives ok? Fuck it – I take it!

The ride
The new ride

Elephant monument with bats
Strange monument somewhere next to the road. Bats and an elephant. Why not?

My ride on the street
My ride on the street – did get one of the big bags (80.000 Dong) to keep dirt and dust from my bag. It does function as a security feature as well. Bright orange you can see – at last that was my idea.

It is sugar cane harvest season
It is sugar cane harvest season

Home-stay in Pom Coong Village

The Home-stay Nr. 24
The Home-stay Nr. 24 in Pom Coong Village. The village is close to Mai Chau and about 140 km from Hanoi. The population is mostly White and Black Thai as well as 5 more Ethnic Minority groups. They main income is rice and tourism. The tourism part grows fast – about 99,5% of them where Vietnamese when I was there.
Did walk a bit in Pom Coong and found Home-stay Number 24. Somehow almost all of them are called after the house number.
The next day I found out that Number 15 – the one I wanted to go is inside a cluster with other places and it is a full-blown souvenir sales operation down in the village. Up where my home-stay is it was quite in the day and not many tourist did walk there. Good for me.

At the home-stay in Pom Coong - Dinner
Dinner at the home-stay

Surroundings
Walking down to the village “supermarket” – looking to the right

Happy on the Honda
Happy on the Honda

Dinner at the home-stay
Dinner at the home-stay.
The first night there where 3 other guys at the place. The room is the whole first floor. You get a mattress on the floor, pillow, blanket, towel and a mosquito net. Which I did not use. There is enough space between the beds. The second night I was alone and the last night there where a guy from Ha Noi across the room. One night with Dinner and Breakfast is 200.000 Dong, Lunch is 70.000 and one big Beer Ha Noi is 25.000. That is less than 10€ for a night with 3 times food. Quite a good deal and the shower was hot as well. Free WiFi from the Sun Set Bar next door! Great!

Breakfast
Breakfast

New friends
They had two puppies at the place – new friends 🙂

Vietnamese coffee
Vietnamese coffee

Lunch at the home-stay
Lunch at the home-stay

Down in the village - tourist overload
Down in the village – tourist overload. This was taken quite early – on the way back the street was full of people. And I had to stop a few times for people to take their picture with me. I am so popular 😉

Dancing
Friday evening – dancing show across the street

More dancin

Cool Bike
Cool Bike

Harvest Dance
Harvest Dance

Even the Dog likes the dancing
Even the Dog likes the dancing

Typical house
Typical house of the local people

Rice in the field
Rice in the field

New friend for a walk
New friend for a walk

Typical local house
Further away the houses get smaller

Bamboo cutter for sticky rice
Bamboo cutter for sticky rice. Than he waved me in. Come on. He is 61 and his one eye is not good any more. Strong green tea is served and we have one Lao Khao – the local rice whiskey. And something red that is good for the back. Than he offers me some smoke out of his big water pipe bamboo. But I do not smoke. More rice whiskey – sorry – to early. After a few more teas and some talk I walk back to my place.

Small village
Small village in the fields

Volleyball
Saturday Volleyball match

Village feast
Than they put lights up and plastic on the floor. From every house food is coming and then everybody sits and they have dinner together

More dancing
Across my place more dancing

More dancing

Big Party with Show
The village dinner turns into a big party later. Man in women cloths contest and disco dancing till 22:00 – than it is quite again across the valley.

Here is a video so you have some sound as well:

 
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Hanoi Winter 2016 – The first 2 Days in the City

The Air Asia plane from Bangkok to Hanoi was on time and at 8:20 local we touched Vietnamese tarmac at Hanoi International. There was not a lot going on so I had not to wait a long time for my visa. Arranged my visa on arrival with Vietnam Visa Pro. Great service! Less than 24 hours after filling out the online form and send the money I had the documents to print out. Than you fill out everything and give the papers, 25 US $ and 2 passport photos to the immigration officer – wait 15 minutes and off you are to immigration and to your bag.

Airport Bus

Airport Bus to Hanoi downtown

Exit the airport and turn right. Walk for 30 seconds and you see the big bus. It is only 2 US $ and it will bring you downtown to the Vietnam Air office. There are also public busses for about 0,30 $ but they take about 1.50 hours or longer and can become quite crowded.

St Joseph Cathedral
On the way to the hotel I did pass St. Josep Cathedral. It was one of the first buildings the French finished in Hanoi. The church opened in 1886 – that makes it the oldest in Hanoi.

North Hotel No 2

Did stay at the North Hotel No 2 at 5B Ngo Tam Thuong Street. Great little hotel with a super friendly manager. The room was small but clean with a super comfy bed and a hot shower with good water pressure. The fridge and TV I did not need but in the summer you can have cold drinks. The street outside is to small for cars so it is really quite compared the rest of the old quarter. They have a web site and you can find them on booking.com. I really do recommend the place. Some other people pay more for a dorm bed – keep that in mind!

The temple from my window
The street from my window with the temple

Temple next to my hotel
Temple next to my hotel

To the right of my hotel door
To the right of the hotel door

Vietnamese coffee - not a bad way to start a day
Only 10 steps from the Hotel is a little coffee and fruit juice place. Vietnamese coffee – not a bad way to start a day

Than a Baguette with Pineapple juice
Went a bit further since they only have toast to get a Vegetarian Baguette (no eggs) with Pineapple juice

Time to start working!

First stop Ha Trung to change money. Only 10 minutes walk from the hotel is that short street with gold shops, bag makers and motorbike seat refurbish shops. Did ask in 5 gold shops and changed my € into Dong. In seconds you become a millionaire – great feeling but not to easy to get used to. It was 24250 Dong for 1 €. The biggest note is 500.000 the smallest you usually get is 1000. Somewhere I have some 10 and 50 from my first trip to Vietnam in 1989. But nobody uses them anymore. No clue why they do not kill the last three digits – would make everything so much easy for all the tourists.

New haircut
New haircut

German Beer
Just before Ha Trung – German Beer! What a nice shop!

The streets of Hanoi
The streets of Hanoi

The hunt for the Motorbike

After I had cash it was time to look for a motorbike. Did some research before and found a few bikes under 180 US from other travellers that where on the way out of Vietnam. You can tell when they just get into town then they think they can get 350 for the bike because that is what they have paid a few 1000 km before. So all of them asked to much. A few others did not replay to my mails.
Did meet one guy at the shop that had to sell the last day and he got only 120 from the shop. Should have sold it a day before to another guy for 180 but though he can get more.
I did not want to waste too much time since I only have 7 weeks here. Two days – that is it!
Walked to one place that quoted me 30€ for a month to rent. Was not easy to find it in the maze but finally I reached the shop. Only to get a 6 $ a day quote? WTF? 6 weeks times 6 $? And I can own one for 180$. What a wast of time.

Archway in Hanoi
Back to the Old Quarter

Dwarf in the streets of Hanoi
Dwarf in the streets of Hanoi

Another hairdresser
Another hairdresser

Dinner - Fresh Spring rolls
Time for Dinner – Fresh sprin rolls – 1,20 €

Yellow Curry
And some Yellow Curry 1,80 €

Back to the hotel it was – tired from getting up early to get to the airport and all that walking in Hanoi.

Day 2

Nice hot shower, coffee and baguette and then check out more bike rental places.

Dog meat
Dog meat anyone? You can see from the face that they did not have a nice death. Guess that is why they put the head there – so you can see the pain.

Fish seller
Fish seller

This pig is for sale!
This pig is for sale!

Apart from loads of Mercedes from C to S and the SUV that was the only BMW so far
Apart from loads of Mercedes from C to S and the SUV’s that was the only BMW so far

Another Temple
Another Temple

Found a good bakery
Found a good bakery

Bike Rental Part 2

After breakfast I walked to the bike place. Did drive a semi automatic wave but both brakes where really bad. The other shop had 4 different Yamaha Nouvo 125 that he could rent me and one of them was OK. 61€ for 6 weeks – a good deal. He will give a helmet, lock and a construction for the bag as well as elastic cord to fasten it. Great – did fill out the rental form and paid 1.500.000 Dong and 200€ deposit. He told me I can get the bike tomorrow at 10.00. All set – time to go back to the Old Quarter and meet Toma for dinner.

Yamaha Nuovo
This is the bike I rented for 6 weeks. The bike that would not be the one for my trip.

Balloon Girl
Balloon Girl on the way to the lake

Toma and Marc
Toma does like his Indian Food and since it was his last evening in Hanoi he wanted to go for it again. Like the last 4 night as well.

Indian Food
The food was really good – I had North Indian and remembered the taste well. But it was way to expensive! Almost 10€ with one beer – not my usual budget for food.
Then we had a beer next to Toma’s hostel. He showed me his drawings and we talked for a while. He had to get up early to get to the airport the next morning. He will join “The Band” on Sri Lanka for some sun and fun. I went home as well back to get back into my soft bed for some zzzzzzzzzz’s.

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