The Magic Of Ninh Binh

A couple of years ago I wrote about one of my favourite places in South East Asia here. I was of course talking about Ninh Binh. It is absolutely beautiful, peaceful and not yet full of tourists (although I’m sure that with the success of the new King Kong movie, that will all change, since it was filmed here).

When I wrote about my first time visiting Ninh Binh 7 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I’d have a chance to go back there, let alone twice!

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Luckily it’s only a 2 hour drive from Hanoi so it’s the perfect place to go to escape the stress of the city.

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Sometimes returning to a place can be a terrible idea and all of the beautiful memories can be destroyed, luckily Ninh Binh really hasn’t changed all that much since the first time that I was there.

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I highly recommend stopping here while on your trip to Vietnam, especially at this time of the year when the rice paddies are so beautiful. They harvest at the end of May, so if you want to see golden rice paddies, go in May!

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Here are a few of my favourite things to do in Ninh Binh:

Take a Bike Ride

This is one of my highlights when I go to Ninh Binh. It’s the perfect way to take in the slow pace of life and the beautiful scenery. Be warned that your arm might get sore from waving to the many people that greet you along the way. Most guesthouses and homestays offer free bike rental.

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Stay Among The Rice Paddies

I cannot recommend this option enough. If there is one thing that you must do while in Ninh Binh it’s this! We have stayed at the Ninh Binh Panorama twice now and both times have been truly magical. There is no road leading to it, just a dirt path and it is in a magical valley. It is perfectly secluded and you have the best view of the rice paddies and the limestone karsts. In fact, the second time that we stayed here we didn’t even bother with any of the tourist attractions because the views are probably better than anything else you’ll see in Ninh Binh.

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Our sweet little hut

 

Rent a Boat on Tam Coc

This one is a bit of a hit and miss. Yes the scenery that you get to take in on the boat ride is absolutely beautiful but the river is full of tourists and the boat ride goes on for a bit too long for my liking. I’ve done it twice and both times I’ve been dying for the boat ride to finish by the end. I have heard that Thung Nham is more beautiful, especially at sunset because there are many birds in that area. I have yet to go but hopefully the next time we go to Ninh Binh we’ll go there.

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Photo credit: Alotravel Asia

Climb the Mua Caves

This is a mountain with caves at the bottom and steps all the way to the top which has an epic view of the surrounding area. Surprisingly, it never felt very busy there at all!

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This is at the bottom of the mountain

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How to get there:

It’s so easy to get to Ninh Binh, there are many options. If you walk in to any travel agent in the Old Quarter they can book a tourist bus for you and it picks you up from your hotel. If you are on a budget then you can make your way to Giap Bat bus station and jump on one of the many local buses that go that way. There is also a train that goes from Hanoi to Ninh Binh or if you have the cash to spend, you can hire a private car. If you are feeling adventurous, you can always drive there by motorbike. This is what we did on our most recent trip to Ninh Binh and it is an easy route, you just stay on the same road for the entire time.

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How about you? Have you ever been to Ninh Binh? Are there any things that you would add to this list?

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A Destination Wedding?!

My beautiful ring.

Since we got engaged on Christmas day we had begun thinking about wedding details. There were two things that we both knew. The first was that we didn’t want a long engagement and secondly we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a wedding. I understand why some people like to spend crazy amounts of money on a wedding but for us, our life together is much more important and at the end of the day, it’s just one day out of your entire life!

My family ❤

So initially we thought that we would do a small legal ceremony in Ireland and then a year later when we arrived in America we would have a backyard wedding in Jasons sisters garden. This is what we told people and all of our Irish friends and family were beginning to plan their trips to America. Once we got back to Korea after our holiday in Ireland we started looking in to it a lot more. We found that the little ceremony in Ireland would cost about $3,000 alone and then the more we looked in to having a backyard wedding we realised that we wouldn’t be able to do it for less than $10,000. This scared the crap out of both of us! Neither of us would want to begin our life in America together with no savings. So we began to get stressed, really stressed! Until one day we finally made the decision that seemed to fit us so perfectly but had never realised…a destination wedding!

Initially we considered going to the Maldives just the two of us, but after researching places to stay, it would have still cost us about $10,000 for a week there. So we started to look at South East Asia, an area that we both love. We had researched Bali (they have amazing places to stay for very cheap), Philippines (direct flights from Korea, it’s a country I’ve always wanted to see and beautiful beaches), Borneo (our first holiday together was here and it’s a place that we both LOVE!) and we even got in contact with a hotel in Burma!

Finally we chose the destination…The Philippines!
We chose it because Jason has been before and absolutely loved it there, I’ve always wanted to go and well, there are 1,000’s of beaches to choose from! Once we had decided on the country, we began looking at places within the country. Now as some of you may know the Philippines is HUGE! I think ideally we would have chosen a place that was off of the tourist trail but once we told a few friends they had told us that they wanted to come. Our wonderful friend from Mark Jones photography also offered his services for our photos so we had to think about what would be easiest for people to get to and the funny thing is that we chose the most touristy island of The Philippines…Boracay!

Once we knew where we wanted to get married we then had to try to find a resort. This involved me scouring the internet and sending e-mails to many places. We couldn’t find anywhere that was just right until one day I had given up hope and decided to go on google maps and search Boracay. Google maps has pins of some hotels on it so I went through the whole island until I found one resort that I hadn’t heard of before, Asya Premier Suites. After searching it online I immediately fell in love with it, I showed it to Jason and he did too. At that point we knew that this was the place!

The pool at Asya
A photo from one of their weddings.
And again.

So I sent them a message and got no reply, sent another one and still no reply. Normally I’d have given up but this was THE place! So I sent a bit of a snarky message the third time and I got a reply. We found out all of the information and found that it was indeed perfect for us!
We have now sent in our deposit and officially booked our date. We’ll be having our wedding on January 6th and can’t wait!
I’m sure that you’ll probably be hearing more about it as the date gets nearer 🙂

Here are some engagement photos that our wonderful friends Mark and Ian from Wooly & Jones photography took for us. They are extremely talented and are based  here in South Korea. They will also be shooting for our wedding so we are unbelievably excited for that!