So much for a 3 day motorcycle ride to Da Nang. Sometimes you just ride the wave that life puts behind you.
I left Hanoi and headed straight to Ninh Binh to meet up with some friends (Callum, Claudi and BiBi). The drive was nothing special. It took roughly 2 hours. I arrived at a homestay on a lake and Callum greeted me.
The homestay was on a lake of some of the clearest water I have ever seen. A canal carried tourists through the winding lake. Without proper knowledge, one could easily mistake the lake for a river. Two hammocks hung between trees next to the "lazy river". Breakfast was included in the cost of staying there. Less than $7 a night.
That evening, Claudia and Bibi showed up and we walked them to their homestay which was located directly behind ours.
The next day, we hopped on the motorcycles and headed to a tourist attraction which became one of the most incredible things I have ever seen or done in my life. Hang Mue. You pay $4.40 at the bottom of a mountain and take the stairs up. There was a couple doing the most dangerous wedding photoshoot conceivable, but damn it looked good. Obviously the views got better as we went higher, but I was simply astounded by how beautiful the view was at the top. You could see countless miles in every direction. Lakes closed in on two sides, a small village on one side, and the ridge of the mountain stretched out into the fourth side. The peak was decorated with a 100 foot concrete dragon, a pillar with some writing etched into it, and a pagoda.
During the walk down, we decided to take a detour and check out another staircase that lead to a slightly lower separate peak with equally breathtaking views. Thats when I stripped all of my clothes off and took a full nude photo from behind (The girls did the same but they only went topless...psh) :D.
We checked out some small caves after our descent, but the highlight was definitely the peak of the mountain. We headed back to get some food and waited for Marco, Pra, and Thomas.
The Trang An boat tour was boatload of eye candy. We all piled up into 2 small boats and were guided by ladies through some epic scenery and water that looked like glass. Limestone mountains jutting out of the water on both sides. A handful of caves only added more wonder to the journey. Green plants growing straight out of the rocks. My jaw remained in my lap for most of the time I was on the boat.
We made a couple of stops to give the ladies a well deserved rest from rowing us around and to explore some temples. We were made very aware that this is one of the places where King Kong was filmed.
Marco, Collum and I left a day after everyone else. We took the Ho Chi Minh trail down and ended up in a little town called Hoang Mai. This is a night that we will remember for the rest of our lives.
After booking a room for the three of us, I went downstairs to ask the hotel manager for a bottle of whiskey. He said it would cost me D100,000.00 ($4.40). I paid him. 5 minutes later, he returned with a bottle of vodka. I did not complain. It's only $4. We polished that bottle off with a quickness (it was watered down) and decided we would go find the next bottle on our own (we suspected we were gouged by the hotel manager and damn we were right).
Callum stayed in the room to work on his blog while Marco and I went to find some whiskey. We didnt walk 50 feet before seeing a busy restaurant across the street.
This is where things got wild.
We walked in to see 2 hot pots surrounded by 10 guys each. One look and Marco and I and these guys went nuts. We had just made 20 best friends. They all wanted selfies and arm wrestling matches.
After beating everyone they threw at us in arm wrestling, they called in a ringer. This guy was about my size but he was strong as an ox. I couldn't beat him, but Marco did. Nobody bothered asking Callum to arm wrestle for obvious reasons. They wouldn't have stood a chance.
After they fed us, paid for our vodka (which turned out to be way cheaper that $4.40... $1.75 to be exact), and gave us some of their whiskey, they took us to THE CRAZIEST KARAOKE BAR I HAVE EVER SEEN! I had to ride on a scooter with 3 of them to get there but it was worth it. Callum rode on another scooter and Marco walked. We only went about 100 feet. You get your own karaoke room. The walls were designed in such a way that is impossible to describe. Imagine Alice in Wonderland meets Skrillex.
The guys paid for everything. The karaoke and all of the beer. Then a realization came upon us. All of them were gay and they wanted some westerners (Crying laughing imoji).
We made it back to the hotel safely, and checked out pictures that we forgot about the next morning before we hit the road for Phung Nha.
The trip to Phung Nha took way longer than we expected. Five hours turned into 8 due to Collum's scooter (dubbed the Tampon Rocket) getting 2 flats. But, we picked up a couple of fellow backpackers from Germany along the way and made it there safely just after dark.
I called it an early night after dinner. Marco and Callum, however, decided to celebrate the journey with a couple of beers. Callum got back to the room at around 2 AM and Marco woke up on a couch at the bar hostel down the street AT 6 AM!
The next day, all of us (Marco, Callum, Claudia, Bibi, and I) went to the botanical gardens. We walked through the garden for nearly 2 hours. We saw monkeys, peacocks, and waterfalls. Marco and I took a dip in one of the lagoons at the base of the smallest waterfall, which helped out Marco's hangover tremendously, and we all climbed to the top of the largest fall and saw yet another of one of the most incredible views I've ever seen. The entry to the park was about $2 and it was one of the best $2 I've ever spent.
The girls went to Hue city this morning, and we'll be heading there tomorrow. It should be about a 4 hour drive unless we take the scenic route.
Since I have been here, I have stopped biting my nails, had tears in my eyes at random points in time out of shear happiness, and no depressing thoughts. This is living.