This morning we drove to Trang An World Heritage site. Though our itinerary did say we would be going on little boats through caves, I had no idea what to expect. Most people were asleep for the two hour bus ride, because the night before was, um, a little bit of a late one. I tried to sleep, but it didn’t work, so I looked out the window instead. After a while I was glad I couldn’t sleep because I would have missed the mountains inch closer and closer. Not mountains like we think of though, huge green hills. Like skyscrapers, they just sit on their own or in tall clusters. A few of them have temples halfway up, meaning someone had to climb all the way up and build there. Yikes. Imagine trying to lug wood and paint up there, not to mention tools.
We walked from the bus to what was really the only large building there, a set of ancient style pagodas with arching roofs and dark wood interior. On the other side were stairs leading to tiny flat boats on the lake. We were split up into groups, given life vests, and pushed off of the stairs, by a guide of course. All of the rowers were women. The job was crazy tough too. It was freezing out, we weren’t exactly the lightest of passengers, and the route ended up being a two hour tour. One lady even used her feet to row a group. I doubt I could row that well even with my hands. I’m curious why only the women are in charge of the boats. But there was no way to ask because we don’t know a lick of Vietnamese.
We must have visited a total of nine different caves. The first one was my favorite because it was all so new. We paddled up to the side of this hill and went straight into the black opening. Most of the time you had to duck because the ceiling was so low, but the place was well lit. (I wonder who got the job of doing that, stringing all the wires…) Our guide, who is a big fan of music, played the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and a bunch of other adventure films. There were fat stalactites (made as the water drips down the ceiling, because it carries minerals to then form rock) and patches of white crystal.
After the tour of all the caves, we were off to lunch at a small family restaurant whose specialty was goat. I’ll be, honest, we weren’t sure what to think of goat for lunch. But on the other hand, anything warm sounded fantastic. First we were served stir fried goat, then barbequed goat, beef stir fry, vegetables, rice, and egg drop soup. The goat was actually pretty mild, not gamey like I expected. One of those don’t-knock-it-till-you-try-it sort of dishes.
Finally, we had a short tour of a local temple in Hoa Lu, where the capital of Vietnam was located through the 10th and 11th centuries. It was gorgeous, but I feel like I was too distracted by the cold. Next trip I’ll learn and pack layers even if I don’t think I need them.