Climbing Hang Mua in Ninh Binh ❤️

Day 23. I was stuck at the hostel in Ninh Binh for three days because there was a typhoon that had hit northern Vietnam a few days ago. It was terrible, and so was my journey there.

I took a bus from Hanoi and booked a bed in a dorm in central Ninh Binh. During the two hour ride a very strong storm started to develop, it was pouring down. When I asked the bus driver if he would stop near the hostel I didn’t get a clear response, so I just assumed he would. After making stops in Hoa Lư and Tràng An we reached Tam Cốc where the driver suddenly stopped and shut down the motor.

The atmosphere outside felt like an apocalypse but the driver yelled at us to leave the bus. This would be the final stop. Just that you get a better picture: Tam Cốc was about 7KM away from where I wanted to go, meaning about 1,5 hours of walking through stormy rain with an infected wound on my foot. Angrily I jumped off the bus and ran for shelter underneath a rooftop nearby. Luckily there were a few taxi drivers around the corner and I waved one over, but I was still quite disappointed by the driver. That he would leave us alone in this darkest of hours.

 

Flooded paradise

But anyways: I arrived in Ninh Binh and all was good again, although most sights were actually closed because they were flooded. No way to enter the caves, no boat rides in Tam Cốc, no walking around exploring, no doing anything because you would have had to walk through deep and dirty water that went all the way up to your belly. Sucks… The nature around here is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Vietnam and I was really looking forward to explore everything.

Fun Fact: The new King Kong movie “Kong, Skull Island” was shot in this awesome area!

So generally everyone at the hostel was a little upset that there was no way to do anything the past few days as just sitting around and playing cards can get a bit boring after a while. The sun was shining since yesterday afternoon though, so we thought we might try to enter the wilderness again. There had to be something we could reach today as the area had finally gotten more dry.

We sat together discussing our options and decided to try to climb to a pagoda nearby: Hang Mua. We thought there had to be a way to reach it, the main road was completely dry and we only had to go a little further up the mountain…

Turned out this would become one of the most adventurous days since a long time!

Hang Mua in Ninh Binh. Climbing a few hundred steps for a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside at a pagoda on top.

 

Boat ride

The wound on my foot was still a bit fucked so I decided – just in case we were still surprised by some deep water – to cover it in a plastic bag (on top of my regular bandage of course). Walking for longer periods still hurt so we ordered a taxi to bring us to the main entry point and told the driver to wait for us until we were finished climbing. We were optimistic that everything was gonna be ok, no major water was spotted on our ride.

When we arrived at the small path leading to the stairs, a deep lake welcomed us. Ugh. We were upset, but luckily there were women offering boat rides to the ticket station and dry area that could be walked. Just to be sure we asked the ladies if the whole path was really walkable and dry after they dropped us off (remember, I should be careful with dirty deep water with my infected wound). “Yeah sure, of course, it’s dry” was the (expected) answer. So off we went, paying 50K Dong each (about 2.2$). The boats were tiny and for security reasons only two persons per boat were allowed. Thus we had to take two boats to get our group of 4 people moving.

Flooded Path to Hang Mua

 

Climbing Hang Mua

Slowly and with lots of muscle power we were navigated through the muddy water. On our way we saw flooded restaurants and hotels, kids playing in the water, stranded goats and dogs – it was hilarious. We quickly paid for our entry tickets and were dropped at the path to the stairs. Our boat drivers would wait about one or two hours for us until we got back. “Ok fine, we finally made it” I thought. With me in the lead we soon came to find that the whole “it’s dry” story was a lie. We were surprised by a huge lake!

Shocked by the misinformation, we discovered that the water reached all the way up to our knees. I told my friends they should just go ahead and take some nice pictures, I’d wait for them here. After a round of discussion Brandon, a rugby player from Wales, decided to carry me through the water. I was relieved and a bit scared at the same time. One wrong step and we both would slip and fall. Best case I would have to clean my wound again (which would suck), worst case we would fall awkwardly and break something (which would suck even more).

Finally agreeing, I allowed him to carry me – piggyback style – step by step through the murky death zone. It was a long fifteen minutes but it was a great success.

Brandon, Kane and Alis. Love you guys.

After an exhausting climb my plastic sack was slippery because I was wearing shitty rubber sandals and sweating so hard in the humidity. Awful… The view from the top was well worth the hassle, though the chill atmosphere was soon broken by a swarm of hornets. Brandon had just been stung the day before and it seemed like a hell of a lot of pain, so we quickly made our exit.

When we arrived at our boats we discovered that one of our boat ladies had left us. The other woman was furious about it, screamed around and called the other one on her phone in anger. She tried to convince her to come back I guess but realized there is no way so she decided to pick all four of us up. Even though she had to take a different, safer route back. It felt really uncomfortable, the water was almost spilling into the boat and she had to paddle even harder to bring us back. When we arrived at the main road there was a big argument between the boat ladies (I think because we had to pay her more to pick us all up and the other ones didn’t think that was fair. Pfffffff honestly? But leaving without any notice is fine?).

Celebrating

Anyways: we left the tense fight and drove back to our hostel, soon leaving for dinner. We found an awesome place just outside that wasn’t too expensive and had free beer and rice wine included. Perfect to celebrate our victorious day. 3 bottles of rice wine and lots of fun later I returned to my bed. Brandon and the others had a night bus to Phong Nha Ke Bang and took a 4th bottle with them for their ride, crazy people.

This was such an awesome day, I think I will not forget it anytime soon!
Thank you again so much Brandon, I love you. 😘

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