Day 8: Ninh Binh


I’ve decided to go to a “Halong Bay on land” instead of the real thing because it’s a three hour bus ride to Halong Bay and back. In one day, that would be too much for Ryder, I think, though it’s supposed to be a ‘must see.’ Instead, we’re going to the former capital of Vietnam, also known for its karst scenery.


It’s a pleasant ride there chatting with an Australian girl who’s also done a fair bit of traveling. We get some hard, chewy coconut candy on the way there.

It truly is beautiful, but Ryder’s less concerned with the haunting views and low-ceilinged respect-inducing animist temples of former kings than with the many cows laying around waiting for tourists to get on them to take a picture. He is alternately the first to arrive as we walk or the last. He quickly get his feet covered in mud and then me as well. The tour guide gives us flowers to eat. I actually think they’re tasty-like a natural form of gum-but not as much as Ryder, who eats bud after bud until the guide just gives him a full bouquet.

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It’s time for a buffet lunch which is actually quite good-what can I say, I’m sold on Vietnamese food which is fresh, varied, and spicy-but it’s a warning sign of times to come when we find ourselves on a tiny boat going down a river with our gap-toothed grinning pedalboat female guide and a tourist grandfather from Saudi Arabia.IMG_3240 IMG_3250

It’s not two minutes into our ride when Ryder announces, “I need to go poo poo” I tell the pedaling woman rather helplessly, but she doesn’t speak English. All she does is constantly motion Ryder to come sit with her and help her row the boat. I tell Ryder to hold it. He does his best but then I see The Face. I can smell him, but all we can do is keep floating down the beautiful, long river, through caves and past goats, until we reach the end. Ryder, in the meantime, is having the time of his life, singing and splashing.IMG_3286 IMG_3306 IMG_3258 IMG_3298

Fortunately, there’s a bathroom there, but Ryder leaves some tale-tell drips as we get out of the boat. Our guide points at them and frowns. I rush him to the bathroom, which is just a hole with a bucket of water. He has Vietnamese belly. I take all his clothes off and give him a full out shower. I have spare clothes. By the time I run back to the boat, the rest of our group is gone. In shame, I buy the guide some Oreos and a Coke from the aggressive sales lady on a nearby boat. The Saudi Arabian man is more than kind, having seven children and four grandchildren of his own. He says, “This boy is going to be very intelligent.”

Ryder continues to have buffet belly on the way back. I take his underwear off and just leave him in a diaper. The Vietnamese famer lady grabs the underwear and throws it in the river, the one that has signs saying “the river is everyone’s responsibility.”

Ryder is gleefully talking about skeletons, monsters, and saying, “Are you ready?!” every time we get to a cave.

We make it back, finally. I give the boat lady the tip she asks for, 100,000 dong-a big one for Vietnam. We make it to our group just in time as they are finishing up a bike ride around the area.

It’s an uneventful ride back, but I’m thrilled to get back to the hotel. That was hard work. Ryder talks about this boat ride for weeks.


Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 372 awesome articles for us.

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