Breakfast was at 6:45 a.m., as we had our last ½ day on the boat and had things to do! Apparently there was only one new 2-night guest, so he would be enjoying a private day tour with Henry. We laughed when we thought about how potentially awkward the ‘talk’ with Henry might be when he explained how the tips worked.
Our stop for the morning was a fishing village, and I must say it was very beautiful. First we got to do a small boat tour of the area.
Then we went to the oyster farm where they showed us how they made pearls. It was actually pretty interesting. Of course there was a stop in the gift shop afterward, but I refrained. Those were more Western prices, for sure. Also, I didn’t have my credit card 😛
We went back to the big boat, packed, and then went and had a cooking class. We learned how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. We had a contest and the first and second best got a free beer/soda and their picture of honor with a sign. Ha! Mine was probably the worst, which came as no surprise. A young German man we did the day trip with won, and the Seattle man next to me explained it was probably because he was young and could roll a spliff. Ha.
They cooked them for us and they were pretty delicious. Brunch was with our same gang and we again had a lot of laughs. We exchanged email addresses to share photos with the Seattle people, and then bid them goodbye. Our boat was the second to leave. Goodbye Paloma. Thanks for showing us Halong Bay.
The driver taking us to Ninh Binh was at the office when we arrived, thanks to Lucky from Paloma calling him and explaining where to meet us. Thanks, Lucky! It made it very easy. Anyway, the driver grabbed our luggage and away we went. He only spoke a few words of English and we only stopped twice – once to get gas, and once for him to get a coffee. Parts of traffic were nutso and I couldn’t watch. I listened to Podcasts and napped instead.
After about four hours we arrived at An Phu Homestay, which our guide recommended to us as they were friends. I didn’t know what to expect as we’d never stayed at a Homestay before and the price was less than $40 US for the night when I booked it. I’m not a backpacker and I’ve never stayed in a Hostel, so 40 bucks was beyond cheap for me! And the room had AC, a private bath, and was quite large! Also, it included breakfast. And hammocks in the garden.
This was the first time I saw how bananas grow!
The only bad part was it had the toilet/shower combo that we had in Indonesia. Sal sat on the bed and said, “oh, hard”. Now if he says it you know it’s definitely hard. Later on we’d wonder if the bed was just boxsprings or what. There was no padding whatsoever. We borrowed bikes and rode to the lake to see a temple there.
The bikes were old, but rode fine, and it was really a lot of fun. The thing that made it so fun was all the people smiling and calling out, “hello!!”. Especially the children. Huge smiles and big hellos. I told Sal that it already made this part of the trip for me. We’d never run into that before, and the interactions have been some of my favorite parts of this trip.
That night the Homestay made us a delicious dinner of honey chicken, some sort of veggie we didn’t know what it was, rice, soup with pork balls, and bananas. It was tasty and we met another couple from Seattle (what’s with all the people from Seattle?) and chatted with them over dinner. It was a very nice night until the bugs came out and attacked. That night was very hard to sleep as there really wasn’t any regular sheet on the top of the box springs/worst mattress every. That was the only downfall of the place. Sal still felt crummy, so he hogged the one blanket so that we could at least have the AC on. Even though the bed was uncomfortable I’d still stay there again. I really enjoyed the friendly people.