Cave Dwelling and Burning Piñatas

No riding today. We are in Ninh Binh playing tourist at a gorgeous resort planted against a scenic limestone rock face landscape near the village of Ninh Binh. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and surrounding limestone “mountains”, are literally steps from our door. It’s been breezy, overcast, and warm but not hot—it feels just about perfect to be out cruising the water in a slow boat, and climbing into crevices of caves.

Our vessel for navigating the water under the caves was a shallow metal rowboat propelled by a Vietnamese lady who manually rowed us the whole way there and back. She (and the other boat operators) are clearly very adept—they use their legs & feet to expertly manipulate the oars into the desired direction with just the right speed. It makes our leg muscles sore just looking at them. She probably rowed for 90 minutes or more.

One of the places we visited was a temple.  Workers were busy assembling a very large (in both size and quantity) number of what looks like festive paper piñatas resembling royal horseman, elaborately decorated canoes, and other shapes. Colorful vibrant paper adornments were being meticulous applied, and there were lots of them.  It appeared they were preparing for something or someone significant.  We asked a nearby bystander who explained their belief that the afterlife resembles the world of the living, and all these preparations will be burned in order that monks who have previously passed may receive them.

In Buddhism, symbolic offerings are made to “give rise to contemplative gratitude and inspiration”.  Material offerings involve simple objects such as a candles, fruit, flowers, water or drinks. In many locations of worship we have seen these gifts, and more—including instant coffee. (Hey….we both want coffee in our afterlife).

Let’s talk accommodations. We have no itinerary, so each afternoon we pause roadside and use a hotel booking service ( or Agoda) to find something that suits our mood and we press the “Go” button. We’ve stayed in three different places —Hanoi for $47 a night (no breakfast), Phu Ly for $35 including breakfast for two, and last night for $50 including breakfast—a little pricier due to our touristy location. The rooms have been clean and all have had mini-fridges, kettles, coffee, tea and free bottled water, and king size beds.

Now we let the pictures do the talking.


Posted in Uncategorized, Vietnam 2024.


  1. I love all your pictures reminds me of some of our adventures while travelling this amazing world!!! Thanks for sharing xoxo

  2. Thank you Anita, for another uplifting travel chapter – loving all the colour in Vietnam. I hope wine is provided in the afterlife – maybe I’ll go buy a bottle of Spanish Port this afternoon and sacrifice half of it! 😉

    • Irene, I bet they would enjoy sharing that wine with you. Randy saw a bottle of vodka at one location.

  3. I’m still so envious of your experiences. Your photos took me back to our visit way back when. The woman rowing your boat looks a lot like the one who took us to the same place. You certainly are stopping to ‘smell the roses’!!

    • We are smelling the roses! We are so aware that we only live once. Klaus, this little town seems to be on the verge of exploding with the discovery of tourism, based on the numbers of visitors and the new construction we see popping up. But in the meantime locals still live their lives here and it maintains its authenticity…for now.

  4. What is the name of the musical instrument that caucasion man is.learning to play? What a great adventure you guys are having.

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