Vietnam – Day 9 – Ninh Binh & Hanoi

Today I woke up at 3:30am when the power went out. The room became unbearably stuffy because there was no air-conditioning or air flow from the fan. I managed to finally get back to sleep before waking up again at 6:00am. I decided to go downstairs to get some breakfast and a coffee before getting ready to head out for the day. Oh by the way did I mention that my place has the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen!

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I started to ride my motorcycle into the town of Ninh Binh so that I could get more cash from the bank, as I was running low on cash. Sadly the motorcycle died and I had to do a walk of shame for about 1.5km before coming to a gas station. I filled the motorcycle up with gas, but sadly it still wasn’t working properly. I kept stalling out unless I gunned the throttle, but even then it would start to hesitate after a few seconds. I finally figured out a movement that seemed to work; hold the throttle full blast for 3 seconds, let off for a few seconds, and then repeat. I managed to get into town and pick up more cash.

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After picking up cash I rode the motorcycle to the Danh Thang Trang An boat tours, about 10km away. The motorcycle was really starting to act up now, and even dying for up to 10 minutes every few kilometers. Again, I figured out another trick; if I bounced on the bike up and down a lot, and then sloshed the fuel from side to side then it would eventually start if I help the throttle down half way. Eventually I got to the boat tours at about 10:00am. Along the way I did see this beautiful looking temple from the side of the road, as well as a very cool gateway.

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The boat tour lasted about 3 hours and cost 200000 Dong ($12.50 CDN). The tour took the group of four people through numerous caves and to a few temples. It was absolutely fascinating!

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After finishing the tour I rode the motorcycle back to the hotel, about 10km away. It took me over one hour to get back because the bike kept on breaking down. When I got back to the hotel I explained what was happening to the owner and she said that she would take a look at it. Unfortunately within 15 minutes she had already loaned it out to someone else, which I found to be quite dishonest.

I was feeling quite hungry at this point in time, as it was well past lunch time, so I decided to walk down the street and see if I could find something to eat. I came across this nice small restaurant called Sunflower Tam Coc and ordered some pho, salad rolls, and some fresh beer.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, checked out, and ordered a GRAB to the Ninh Binh train station. The fare for the ride was 80000 Dong ($5 CDN), but all I had was a 200000 Dong note for which he didn’t have change for. It wasn’t a big deal for me and I told him to keep the change, but he insisted on getting me the correct change. He ran around the six different stores asking for them to make change, all the while leaving me inside his car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I felt pretty bad for the guy. Remember, in Vietnam it is not customary to tip and many people will flat our refuse even if its a nice gesture. Oh and safety isn’t top priority in this country; take a look at his seatbelt reminder defeat with a plastic spoon!

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I was about 1.5 hours early for the train, but ended up talking with the nice young man from Chile that was backpacking around SE Asia. The train ride back to Hanoi took about 2.25 hours. After arriving in Hanoi I took a GRAB to the hotel I was staying at two nights ago so that I could pick up my passport before carrying onto my new hotel called Hotel Golden Art. Hotel Golden Art wasn’t the nicest, but it did the trick for the night.

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After checking  into the hotel I walked down the street to a fast food Bahn Mi place called Pho Bahn Mi. The food was absolutely delicious, in fact I ordered a second because it was so good. After having dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I take a brief pause from the Vietnam series to share a recent hike that I completed with my father to Plains of Six Glaciers, before continuing with my Vietnam series. The next part in my Vietnam series has me travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay tuned!

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2018-08-27 – Kenyan Safari

I just finished a seven day Safari organized by GoWay and fulfilled by Sense of Africa. My truck, driven by a fantastic driver named Daniel, had four other Canadians with me from the Toronto area; a retired couple named Brian and Kelly and a young couple named Courtney and Nick.

The trip started out with two days in Samburu National Reserve. Accommodation was at the Serena Samburu Safari Lodge, where we stayed in luxury tents and were woken up with coffee and cookies delivered right to our tent door, followed by breakfast and a game drive. The afternoons were spent relaxing, followed by an evening game drive and a five course dinner.

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The third day consisted of driving to Mount Kenya National Park. Accommodation was at the Serena Mountain Lodge, a rustic mountain hotel-lodge in the dense rainforest in Mount Kenya. We had views of the buffalo drinking from the water hole. I saw the occasional owl and hyena. Dinner was a five course meal and breakfast the following day was a five course meal as well as a buffet.

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On the fourth day we drove through Lake Nakuru National Park where we saw a few black rhinos and flamingos, before arriving at Serena Lake Elementaita Camp, where we stayed at some ultra luxury permanent tents with rainfall showers. Dinner was a five course meal.

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On the fifth day we ate a five course breakfast and drove to the Maasi Mara, with a quick stop at a Maasi village where we were shown the traditional ways of life that the Maasi people live. It was neat to see but left a bad memory when we were separated from each other and pressured into buying things that were supposedly made by hand but clearly mass manufactured. We spent the next two days at the Serena Mara Safari Lodge, a luxurious hotel that resembles something that Antoni Gaudi would have created. We had a morning and evening game drive on both days, and I enjoyed a hippo breakfast on the second day in Mara while the other four completed a somewhat disappointing balloon ride. This time of year the great migration was occurring and we got to see an amazing amount of animals migrating.

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On the seventh and final day we ventured 7 hours back to Nairobi. I’m spending the night in the Hilton hotel near the airport before I head to Athena, Greece tomorrow morning.

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2018-08-21 – Samburu National Reserve

Today I woke up at 3:00am. Apparently I’m a bit jetlagged! I caught up on social media, went down for the breakfast buffet and waited to be picked up on my Safari tour. I was picked up at 7:30am and made a quick stop at another nearby hotel to pick up the remainder of my group. I chose to stay at a different hotel to save a bit of money. There are 8 other people in my group distributed between 2 vehicles. I have four other people in my vehicle; Kelly and Brian from near Toronto, and Nick and Courtney also from near Toronto.

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The day started off with a three hour drive to Trout Tree Restaurant where we had lunch. At Trout Tree they have their own hatchery right there so you’re guaranteed the freshest fish you’ll ever feast your eyes on. I’m not a fish person so I had a delicious steak with potatoes and a small salad, but everyone who had the fish said it was amazing. We continued on another three hours until we got to Samburu National Reserve where we did two hours of game drives until we ran out of sun.

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The Samburu National Reserve is a game reserve on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya. On the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The park is quite large; 165 km² in size and is situated about 350 kilometers from Nairobi. The altitude in the park ranged from 800 to 1200 metres above sea level.

We checked into Samburu Intrepid’s Camp. The rooms are in permanent tents and are quite well appointed. We had dinner straight away; a delicious five course meal. The main course was an option between pasta, chicken or steak; I opted for the steak again.

After dinner it was around 10:00pm and I was exhausted so I went to bed right away

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Pandas At The Calgary Zoo

If you have not seen the Panda exhibit at the Calgary Zoo then I highly suggest that you go visit these furry friends. They’re so adorable and playful. There has been some controversy about our zoo over the last few years but I have some friends that have worked at the zoo or currently work at the zoo and they really do take great care of the animals at the zoo. Take a look at these cute furry guys and some of their fellow zoo mates.

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Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

A few day’s ago I took my mom to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. It was a very late Christmas present because we had both been busy or unavailable during the first half of the year.

The sanctuary was started in June 2011 by Georgina De Caigny and Andi Scheibenstock because they recognized a need for a knowledgeable and experienced rescue organization that would make the rehabilitation and rehoming of displaced wolfdogs a priority. It’s one of the largest sanctuaries within Canada. The sanctuary is currently home to 23 wolfdogs.

I highly recommend visiting the sanctuary if you want to learn more about wolfdogs, see some super cute wolfdogs, and support the non-profit sanctuary. The website for the sanctuary is yamnuskawolfdogsanctuary.com

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