Travel-ogue: Reel Vietnam – Ninh Binh Family Homestay “Home From Home”

Travel-ogue: Reel Vietnam

Ninh Binh Family Homestay 

“Home From Home”

SO YOU’RE TRAVELING in Vietnam: You’ve been to the South and navigated the dizzying traffic of Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to by its original name Saigon), visited the amazing Cu Chi Tunnels, and took some selfies in front of the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral. Perhaps you worked on your tan on the pristinely white sand of Phu Quoc. You certainly explored the luminous and magical Ancient Town in Hoi An, and definitely visited the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, walking through the bustling Old Quarter, strolling around the beautiful West Lake, and stopping by some historical temples where you can even view Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body at his mausoleum (which amusingly was named the world’s sixth ugliest building in 2012). And of course, no Vietnam trip is complete without a boat cruise through the hauntingly beautiful Halong Bay. But, perhaps towards the end of your trip, you’re ready for some peace and quiet away form the hustle and bustle and all the tourists… That’s when you open your Lonely Planet and discover the small city of Ninh Binh. Located in northern Vietnam, and the capital of Ninh Binh Province, the area is best known for its largest nature reserve, Cuc Phuong National Park. “But why travel to Ninh Binh?”, you ask. To stay at the Ninh Binh Family Homestay, of course!

Run by a young, lovely Vietnamese couple, Mr. Nguyen Thanh – or Scott as his guests call him – and his wife Mrs. Tran Hang, along with their two adorable children Bo and Min, the Ninh Binh Family Homestay really is, as their motto says, “Home From Home” (mind the endearing grammatical error). And I should know; I’ve been here for one week! I discovered the NBFH on the Southeast Asia Backpacker Facebook page, advertising that they were looking for a “volunteer English teacher,” and that they provided free accommodation, food, as well as a motorbike! I was traveling through Southeast Asia at the time and couldn’t resist; a chance to do what I love – teaching children, a profession I’ve been working in for the past five years in Taiwan – and explore a remote and authentic region of Vietnam.

I was welcomed graciously by Scott and his family, and on the first evening we enjoyed a delicious traditional dinner on a rug shared by other homestay guests from Australia, and the States, with a hearty chicken and vegetable soup, crispy spring rolls Vietnamese style (both Family Homestay specialties), and homemade “happy water” – you’ll find out what makes it “happy” once you try it So far I’ve taken my motorbike out on day-long excursions, exploring the countryside, and generally getting lost – the best way to figure out your bearings! It’s not unusual to encounter a herd cows blocking the road, free range chickens frantically scurrying about, and “goat traffic” which, instead of being gridlocked behind a line of cars, you’ll find yourself stuck behind a traffic jam of goats! We also take morning bike riding excursions with the guests – and there are plenty of guests to keep me company during my stay as the the Homestay is always at 75% occupancy – through the peaceful rice fields, admiring the local farmers as they plant all the rice seeds by hand, and the abundant livestock as you’re sure see some intimidating but friendly oxen lazing along the dirt roads, gaggles of garrulous geese (sorry for the cheesy use of alliteration), as well as a wide array of other farm animals grazing in the grasslands.

There are of course some excellent local tourist destinations you can visit just a bike-ride away: Ninh Binh City contains the impressive Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Vietnam, as well as the biggest bronze Buddha statue in Southeast Asia! For a unique excursion, you can take the Trang An boat tour, winding through the Song Sao River and breathtaking mountains made entirely of limestone, and even passing through natural cave – but just a “heads up,” you’ll have to duck your head! Cool fact: Trang An is the site where they filmed the new King Kong film “Kong: Skull Island!” Scott also offers his own unique tours, scenic bike rides through the countryside, and his “special tour” designed only for the bravest guests with a sense of adventure, and danger… I have posted some photos, but pictures cannot do justice to what you’ll see when you explore Ninh Binh yourself. I’ll be updating you again soon, and posting photos daily on their Instagram account “Ninhbinhadventure.”

So stay tuned, and when visit the Ninh Binh Family Homestay, remember to say, “Mot hai ba zho!” as you down your first, but certainly not last, shot of happy water. Cheers!

-Cameron
Ninh Binh, January 26, 2017

Cameron is a freelance writer and blogger, and currently works as a tour guide in Hanoi, Vietnam. He now enjoys happy water on a weekly basis

Poetry Corner – The Italian Girl

The Italian Girl

... Deep, hazel eyes, like staring into them too long would be dangerous, the threat of never escaping... Sumptuous curves, elegantly, delicately put together, sculpted from Eve herself... Without knowing her past, she maintains a childlike innocence, no way of knowing, but it doesn't matter... 

I want to be lying alongside her now, stroking her platinum blonde hair, brunette roots showing, adding a feeling of realness to her, proving I didn't just conjure her up in a sun-stroked daydream... Caressing her magnificent tits, boobs, breasts, these words too crass to do any written description justice, like just by saying them would offend her unequaled beauty... 

Lying there apres-sex, our sweating bodies heaving, melting together... Our fingers exploring each other's bodies, still unknown even after making love, even more foreign than when we only fantasized this... Our feet intertwining like latin dancers, latin lovers under a howling full moon...

Soft, luscious lips, softer than air, they would disintegrate on contact, upper and lower lips pursing together like two pillows, pillows you want to rest your lips on, and never part from, both her and your saliva acting as coital glue, breathing through your noses, listening to the charged sounds of your breathing, feeling each other's heartbeats, and you could stay like this forever...

-Bali, Jan 12/2017

Travelogue: How To Get Fired From A Cruise Ship

Travel-ogue: How To Get Fired From A Cruise Ship
by Cameron Brtnik
     The year was 2009, and I was freshly back from Hollywood. I didn’t make it of course – I didn’t have the drive; to sleep in a car, to live off macaroni and cheese for two years, to go to five auditions a week only to get a call back to a tooth paste commercial – I didn’t get that either. I had been working on my magic – practicing daily, I even enrolled in the world famous Magic Castle Hollywood and partook in a master class with my childhood magical hero Mark Wilson (The Complete Course In Magic was the first magic book I studied). And I wanted to do something with it. I filmed a demo video, sent it off to Carnival Cruise Lines – the world’s foremost pleasure vessel and self-acclaimed party boat – and whadaya know, I was hired!
     It was a 200,000 ton (fifty times bigger than the Titanic), 2000 passenger occupancy vessel. Simply put, it was a huge. She was a magnificent beast. And it was all mine: The Carnival Glory.
 
But let me backtrack a bit here….
     That summer I was at Sorcerer’s Safari Magic Camp (I know what you’re thinking, and yes they do manufacture real life Harry Potters there) and one of the special guests – a world famous magician cruise ship by the name of Sean Farquhar – regaled us with stories of magic on the big seas…I was hooked. I approached him later that day to ask him more details. He told us the story of a a cruise that involved certain Playboy Bunny guests, and an onboard magician who woke up one day at the ungodly hour of five o’clock a.m. to a knock at the door to find one of the ship’s officers just stopping by to say hello. He admired the photos taped on his wall, mainly noticing the X-rated material of said rabbit ear-wearing guests. He also recognized who they accompanied, and more specifically, the location of where the photos were taken: in that very bedroom.
     Now this all seems fine and well, even a good story perhaps if it weren’t for one G-darned rule: There’s NO frolicking with the guests – even if they are Playboy Bunnies. So this lucky, damned SOB was fired on the spot. No one heard from him again…or so I say. Foreshadowing anyone???…..
I excelled at my job. it was a perfect fit; magic, entertainment, customer experience, and….women. No shortage of them. It was like a haven, a floating forbidden island, an open buffet, a melting pot of American, Asian, African, Mexican, you name it you got it, it was….Paradise. And I? Zero willpower. I met a smart man early on – the wisest of men and the absolute manslut of the cruise: The Pianist. He knew things no other man did – or should – and more importantly, he knew how to manipulate the rules of a pleasure boat. He gave me one simple piece of advice: If you don’t want to get caught, meet the female guests off board the ship. Book a hotel for a few hours, meet the single, university frat girl, divorce or married woman off the premises, have your fun, and return onboard as if nothing ever happened. Because in the eyes of everyone aboard (including the ignorant) husband, nothing out of the ordinary happened; just another drunk guest enjoying her time on land, probably shopping or getting drunk off three dollar martinis at some cheap local beach bar somewhere in Belize.
     Good advice – advice I should’ve taken to heart, considering that was the second unofficial warning. But me being me, never heading the advice of others, never listening to the warnings of previous perpetrators, always wanting to learn the hard way, me -stubborn, selfish, self-absorbed, egocentric, narcissistic – had to learn the hard way….
It was a warm evening – I know because I was getting a BJ on the balcony of th—wait, I’m getting “ahead” of myself now…. It was a regular night. I was working the martini bar, performing close-up magic for Carnivals guests – couples, newlyweds, singles and some curious staff – and this spicy Mexican broad was making eyes. I’d seen the look before: sultry, exotic, flirty, curious, all come-ons, and I knew i could have her that night. It was all part of the process: Girl goes on cruise for first time with friends, girl gets drunk, girl hunts for boys, girl finds no boys, girl goes in search of something more attractive, more charming, more dangerous: the staff. Not just any staff – no, sadly the housekeepers, chefs and servers are not allowed in the guest area – for entertainers. And if the piano man got laid the most, the magicians (and even comedians believe it or not) were a close second. I just happened to be on her radar, or more fittingly, menu that night.
     Here was my problem: I thought I had out-smarted security – I had not. To rub this obvious truth in even more, a friend co-worker who sold paintings at a gallery onboard warned me not a week earlier: “Be careful: they have their eyes on you.” I scoffed at the thought. Around midnight, the time I usually wrapped up my show, I met her at the ship’s nightclub. We drank. We danced. We left about 2am and hurried back to her door. I had been here many times before; “Should I or shouldn’t I?” were always the thoughts that repeated through my mind. On one hand, I’m sacrificing my job and career (and an exciting one full of future possibilities at that!) On the other hand, this chick is hot and horny and that’s also, in it’s own way, full of future possibilities. Many times in the previous few months I had turned this enticing offer down; this time I overruled my silly worries, and discreetly stepped into her room…
     Fast forward to getting a glorious BJ on the deck off her room, under a full moon, the night sea breeze filling my nostrils full of optimism…then a loud knock at the door. Security: “We know you’re in there and we’re coming in.” Me: (Thinking) “I could totally Spiderman down the side of the ship onto the balcony below and not get caught…” The gig was up – I was caught. Now, the thing is I was friends with these security guys – really nice dudes from India who I said hi to and conversed with daily – so it felt surreal as they handcuffed me and led me into a small, windowless room to interrogate me. I was forced into admitting my actions (and a couple others) and writing an apology, promising that I would never commit such an unspeakable atrocity again. (The rules are in place to prevent the cruise line from being sued by guests. Think “unwanted pregnancy” or “mysterious std”.) I was then freed to go with the ominous warning: “One day you may hear a knock at five o’clock in the morning.” So it was true….
     Four days past without incident; I thought I was in the clear! Day 5: Port stop, Miami. 5am: Knock at the door. I thought I was dreaming. An officer standing at the door; it was told to pack my bags. I was escorted off the ship by the sympathetic officer. It was like doing the ultimate “walk of shame” in front of my fellow shipmates whom I had become close with over the six months I had been aboard. I was met by a local Miami officer – a pleasant, religious woman who gave me sound advice on the way to the airport (something about not drinking too much) and waited with me until my plane home arrived. I learned an important lesson that day: The “Five O’clock Knock” is a real thing.
-Written by Cameron Brtnik
cambrtnik.wordpress.com