The Vietnam Diaries 2011: July 30th – Cuc Phuong and Kenh Ga

We leave Cuc Phuong behind and drive to the Kenh Ga Floating Village. The villagers here live on water most of their lives. The only way to get to the village is to take a boat. Well, you could also swim, but we can’t all be Michael Phelps. The Spanish couple stays in the car, because they haven’t booked this part of the tour and don’t want to join.

Katka and I are met by a local villager. He puts up two small chairs in the middle of his boat and we set off on a tour of the village. By now it’s extremely windy and rainy, but thankfully the tiny wooden boat has a roof. Less thankfully, it’s a freaking tiny wooden boat!

Merciless water engulfs ships all around us!

We make a circle around the island and start heading out towards some karst rocks in the distance. However, powerful gusts of wind are rocking the boat side to side, threatening to capsize it. We’d like to avoid capsizing. While it would make for a fun story later, I do believe I’ve already mentioned that none of us are Olympic swimmers.

The boat driver himself starts making exclamations along the lines of “whoaaa”, “wow” and “I don’t want to die yet!”. He shakes his head and turns around. We go back the same way and eventually the driver anchors the boat by a bridge. We leave him with a tip and run to our car, soaking wet.

When we arrive back to the hotel the “chi-cken” guy is outside, washing the windows. He starts pointing at my helmet excitedly, saying something to the effect of Ho Chi Minh himself having had one with a star on it. Seriously, what is it with this helmet and its effect on locals?!

It’s not like I’m wearing one of these…

When we get up to our room we discover that nobody was in to clean it: beds are unmade and trash has not been taken out. But hey, at least the breakfast was…oh, right.

We have some crackers and I take my daily Yomost fix. After shower we’re in bed, trying to figure out how to get to Cat Ba Island, where we expect to spend the rest of our Vietnam holiday. Seems like the easiest way to get there from Ninh Binh is by taking a bus to Haiphong, followed by a hydrofoil to Cat Ba. Katka is fresh out of the shower, so she’s naked. I’m only wearing my boxers.

Suddenly, the door to our room swings wide open and a maid strides in briskly. Katka jumps out of the bed, trying to cover herself hastily with a towel. The maid panics, her eyes darting from Katka to me. She backs out of the room muttering “sorry, sorry” and shuts the door behind her.

A silent minute passes, then the door bell rings. Katka (now dressed) opens the door and receives a few towels from the mortally embarrassed maid. Well, I guess next time she’ll be ringing door bells and entering rooms in the correct order.

Doorbell. It works. Try it!

We have dinner downstairs and then try to talk to a receptionist about getting a ticket to Haiphong for tomorrow. He answers with a lot of indistinguishable words, ending with “you pay driver”. It appears he’s asking us to pay for a driver to take us to the bus station, where we can book the ticket. The bus station is literally a five minute walk away from the hotel. Since Katka and I still possess the magical ability to walk, that’s exactly what we decide to do instead.

The bus station is deserted and all ticket booths are closed. As we stand helplessly looking at signs we can’t understand three guys come up to us, offering their help.

I have a piece of paper with a few pre-written Vietnamese phrases, including greatest hits like “I would like a ticket to Haiphong” and “tomorrow in the evening”. The guys respond exclusively in Vietnamese. It appears they’re saying that there’s a bus tomorrow at six in the evening, but it may as well be “moon shadow is best when the eagle cooks a fish”. I really have no idea.

Vietnamese is like, hard, man!

I start flipping back and forth through the Lonely Planet book, attempting to find some more useful phrases to help us clarify our question. Understandably, the guys’ idea of a fun evening is not to stand around looking at clueless foreigner who flips through a book. Two of the guys give up and leave. The last guy manages to convey that there’s only a bus at six in the morning. We have a whole day of tours planned tomorrow, so that’s not an option.

Across the street from our hotel is the tour agent – the same guy who’s helped us arrange today’s trips to Cuc Phuong and Kenh Ga. We decide to consult him about the ticket to Haiphong, so we go into the little cafe area where he’s drinking tea with some friends.

He confirms that our best bet is to get an early bus ride out of Ninh Binh. He also informs us that all hydrofoil traffic to Cat Ba is currently on hold due to threat of typhoons. His suggestion is to stay another night in Ninh Binh and leave the day after tomorrow in the morning. He winks at me, points at his head and says “You TINK about it!”

Having “tinked” about it, we decide to follow his advice and book an additional night at the Queen Hotel. We return to our room and fall asleep around 23:00.

The next chapter of the diaries is right here.

In the meantime, head to Katka’s Flickr page to enjoy some colourful pictures from the trip.

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