Escape to solitude

Escape to solitude
Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Busy streets. Really they are.
Busy streets. Really they are.

In which I:

run early, run intervals, for a segment CR (course record) attempt and to catch an 8.30 bus.

Find that I am booked on the 6pm bus.

Convince myself I have lost 500k that I had wrapped in a receipt, said receipt now in the bin.

Later find that I had long since taken the money out of the receipt.

Am unable to use my super card in several ATMs, one of them potentially charging me anyway.

Later am able to use it. And then discover the 500k. Feel loaded.

Am picked up by minibus and deposited with other tourists at an office, to wait for the bus. No info is given. First bus comes, for Hue only.

But not.

“Ninh Binh?” I ask. And after some debate, yes, it is.

“You” is out in a three recliner at the back, with a charming Czech and Canadian couple – I think they have been an item for weeks now.

I am unconvinced the bus will stop at Ninh Binh, but despite the full bus picking people up first, it does. And my lift is waiting. He assured me – I think – that after Hanoi, Tam Coc is quiet. And it is. No other bugger here. Perfect. I upgrade from one night to two, drink beer, read by candlelight in the garden – which reminds me of Yaya village, Ethiopia – and then hit the sack. Crikey. A hard bed comes as a shock, but no one will wander in here chatting after midnight, and tomorrow I can run, breakfast, cycle explore and run again.

Peaceful Tam Coc by candlelight
Peaceful Tam Coc by candlelight.
The lake. It is about you joggers, oo go raand.
The lake. It is about you joggers, oo go raand.


Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

A statue in the middle of town
Bits of Hanoi.

In which I:

  • Realise this really is a party hostel.
  • Find that Zane, though one of last night’s talkers, is not a total dick, with him opining, wisely, as I wonder at the sacrilege of missing out Halong Bay, that ‘places are places’.
  • Remember my hotel stay in Cambodia, and tuk tuk journeys the day after.
  • Spot people hacky sacking in the street.
  • See the Hanoi Hilton, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and Presidential palace, plus sit in, and mooch round, the botanic gardens.
  • Am perplexed by Hanoi, and cities in general.
  • Entirely expect to have just lied to the nice young man outside a restaurant, when I said I’d be back in 20 minutes, but remember the warmth of his smile, translate the prices as entirely reasonable, and return. Well inside 20 minutes.
  • Book onward travel to Ninh Binh (Ning Bing). And am pleased.
  • Run round Hoan Kiem lake. 3 times. It’s just under a mile. Strava record is 6 mins. Given a clear run, I could take it. If. If I wake up early, I’ll have a go. But it may be that that is a record set under conditions of ‘people causing deviation’, and not within my compass.
Hanoi statue, of workers, set on a plinth
Hanoi statue.
Busy traffic passing over a crossing to the Lake
When crossing, just stroll out there

East Coast parkrun, Singapore

Reaching Hanoi
Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

East Coast parkrun route
East Coast parkrun route. Left to right, and back again.

I ran East Coast parkrun in the morning. A torrential downpour just before the start cooled us all down. Despite the humidity the course is pretty fast, helped by being flat. It’s an out-and-back, and even the turn is pretty quick, taking a wide swoop round rather than a 180 degree turn.

Four sweaty runners, after the finish
Mauritz, David, me, Jennifer.

Two people from my hostel were there, though it took German Jennifer to point that out and say hello. I’d not noticed, nor would I have recognised them in any case. They asked my pb, which gave a false idea of my speed – pb shmeebee, I need a phrase for current best. CB, then. In the end, young Dave, only recently a sub 20 runner from his own account, was catching me at the end and would have done so with another 500m or so. I was a bit disappointed not to nip under 19, but 19:02 with tired legs and in humid conditions wasn’t bad.

Me, striding confidently ahead of a pack. Many of whom passed me later on.
She passed me later.

It started at 7.30, so even after chatting at the end to very friendly locals – albeit Mauritz is studying in the UK and the others who passed to talk were ex pats – I had jogged back by 9.30. Time for a change, a sociable breakfast – lots of nice people in the hostel – and a scoot to lovely Changi airport. One tasty pad Thai, two meals on the plane and a three hour flight later and I was in Hanoi. There’s a tourist info spot in the airport, so I quickly found out that the buses leave from the other terminal and hopped on the transfer bus. I failed to find the local bus – all the way over to the far right of the car park – but still felt smug getting a minibus. It was 8 times more expensive. But it’s 33000 VND to the £, 5k for a bus, 40k for a minibus, for an hour’s journey. I’m happy with my choice.

A lot of large ships queueing for entry to Singapore, off East Coast park
Boats queue near the beach.

Hanoi. Buzzing motorbikes, light and colour, surrounded by a dark haze given the late hour. I walked to the hostel, learning how to cross streets and remembering others’ stories – I think of crossing in China, but still – as I went.

Sunset over East Coast park
Sunset over East Coast park. Several days earlier.

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