I was inspired to write this by Ninh Binh, an out of the way spot in Vietnam with some interesting landscapes. Unfortunately my friend’s camera died and my kodak disposable sucked, so you will only be able to live this place through my words and some terrible, 1970’s esque pictures. I had only one day here, but we managed to get out and rent some scooters, check out a few pagodas and take the famous boat trip down the scenic river and through something like 11 caves barely big enough to accommodate the boat. This is a place to come back to.
We race over the wide, paved streets, extricating ourselves from the grasp of the quiet but constricting city. The buildings drop away, and the wide boulevard evaporates into a narrow lane suffering from obvious neglect. Our bikes coast over potholes and stones, slowing our journey, but this does not bother us. For we are looking out upon a beautiful collaboration between man and nature. Vast green rice paddies, tipped with gold – the promise of a good harvest – stretch off into the distance, where limestone cliffs thrust out of the ground like vengeful fists of the gods. We tour through the backroads, between quaint villages to visit ancient pagodas and climb to the very tips of the mountains themselves. A hole in the rock at the peak allows a much needed breeze to flow through, and affords a view over the landscape framed by nature herself. A land of beauty.
On our boat, we glide through narrow caves just inches above our heads on perfectly clear water, and by some trick of nature the humidity and temperature only increase, giving no respite from the day’s heat. The shade does not go unthanked. The only sound in the depths of the mountains are the soft lapping of the water being treaded by the paddles of the boat. Through to the other side, a faint wail can be heard in the mountains, belying a temple secluded in the limestone bluffs. We climb the mountain of stairs to reach it. The peace and tranquility of this place is unparalleled, and I promise myself I will someday return. On our sojourn home, the sun sets the fields of rice ablaze in golden flames as it lowers itself between the prodigious mountains, all the more magnificent wrapped in their robes of light and shadow lent them by the sun each evening and returned to the heavens each night.