Resting, not ranting
The last three days have been quiet. It’s good to rest, to have time reflecting and even stopping to feel the grief of what seems to be a very crazy political world. I started writing a rant, but you’re be relieved that I realised that this is not the forum for that.
Day 755 we walked to Chua Bich Dong, the primary action for the last three days. It was nice getting away from Tam Coc, leaving the grinding and banging noise of construction work behind. Tam Coc has exploded in the past two years, from a quiet riverside town to a thriving touristy place full of homestays, hostels, and restaurants, with old buildings being demolished for bland modern blocks lacking any traditional connection to the area.
After a relaxing 3km walk, we arrived at a little stone humped bridge leading us through the tiered entrance to Chua Bich Dong (The Pagoda of the Emerald Grotto). I had read that we would enter an oasis of tranquillity, but a tour full of Chinese tourists were getting ready to leave, and the guide had the loudest of voices. Did he not realise that this is a sacred place to be respected.
It is weird, in China the people seemed so tranquil and calm. Why do they suddenly transform into feral animals when they are away from their homeland? Any answers? Thankfully they soon left and we were left in peace.
This site consists of three traditional wooden pagodas, Ha, Trung and Thuong, positioned on different layers of the side of Bich Dong Mountain. We entered the first Pagoda, with golden statues and incense burning. The second Pagoda was nestled into the rock, and as we entered, we could hear voices coming from the rear of the building. We then realised that there was a narrow path, taking us around the back, up stone stairs through a natural cave dripping with ribbons of stalactites, given names such as dragon gliding and turtle swimming.
After we admired the ancient geology, our path took us further up to amazing views and the third Pagoda. Stretched before us were the gorgeous karst mountains, a flock of ducks swimming on the river, and a small village. Well, we weren’t expecting that!
The whole area was very peaceful with its winding paths through old gnarled trees, and the biggest Poinsettia plants we have ever seen. I thought perhaps that these plants originate from here, but they are indigenous to Mexico!
We walked back to our accommodation as I wanted to get back to chat with my sister on WhatsApp – the wonders of technology. She is coming out in January to travel with us for a bit– we are so excited!
Also, when we were staying on the floating homestay, the lovely young couple, Kashara and Daniel, told us about Workaway. It’s a platform that links travellers with homestays. The difference is that for exchange for food and lodging, the travellers contribute a pre-agreed amount of time doing various tasks. I am thrilled to say that we have been accepted for our first Workaway at an eco-village in the North East of Thailand where we may be making mud bricks! Hey, I am experienced making bricks – I made loads out of newspaper in my twenties to put on the fire. Unfortunately, I stored them in the coal bunker and they got damp and soggy!
Our last day in Tam Coc, we were relieved to receive our passports in the post with another 15 days visa. Our lovely host Lien suggested that she contacted the Travel Agent in Hanoi to arrange for our passports to be delivered to us rather than us having to waste 5 hours travelling to collect them. We were extremely grateful for this idea and her arranging it for us. It also gave us another day here before we caught the overnight coach to our next destination – Phong Nha.
And our extra day? Well, we ate at Chookies, a safe zone from dragons and the best iced-coconut coffee e-v-e-r. And we walked, and ate and walked…around the alleyways, past many new homestays, around the lake, watching the men and women using their legs to row and glide the wooden boats down the river, and some more eating.
We said a fond farewell to our host, Mr Luan and the lovely Japanese family, Makato, Rie and their son Jun, who regularly buy wonderful embroidery from Mr Luan for their business www.couture-gift.com. (Have a look at the exquisite gifts). We felt very well looked after, and if you ever visit Tam Coc, we highly recommend Tam Coc Craft Homestay.
Our coach arrived with the two-storey recliner chairs. We were on the top layer. It was so packed that even people were lying on cushions along one of the aisles! It does amaze me how people can sleep so well on these noisy, swaying, cramped buses. The man in front of me was snoring loudly for most of the seven-hour journey!
We have now been in Phong Nha for just over 12 hours. Sleeping, eating, reading and organising the next two days have been done, plus mourning the loss of hope that Brexit could somehow be avoided. As one person wrote, they are "Dismayed; disgusted; disheartened; disenfranchised." I tend to agree. That’s it – no more politics…for the time being!