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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Getting off the beaten track in Ninh Binh

1924034_1121810856950_5811353_n When I traveled through Vietnam, I was really excited about seeing the beautiful Halong Bay and rightly so. It is incredible there, but alas, with a place that famous it is bound to get a bit crowded. We loved our time there but the destination that surprised us the most was Ninh Binh.1924034_1121810896951_222926_n

Ninh Binh is known as Halong Bay on the rice paddies. It also sees far less crowds than its more famous counterpart. In fact, most people that we mentioned it to had never even heard of it!1924034_1121811216959_3269343_n

Ninh Binh is only a two hour drive south from Hanoi. When we arrived we booked in to our guesthouse and they recommended that the best way to see Ninh Binh and the surrounding area is by motorbike. I’m not very confident about my driving skills and neither was Louise so we hired two men from the guesthouse to drive us.1924034_1121808936902_3355100_n

The next day we began our adventure around Ninh Binh. Our first stop was to the Mua caves which were located up a steep climb of many steps on a mountain.1924034_1121810936952_4179082_n1924034_1121811816974_5844863_n

It was a misty morning but the views from the top were still incredible!1924034_1121811936977_6770180_n

1924034_1121811896976_1133286_nAfterwards we drove through small villages with people coming out and waving and shouting “hello” at us. (It’s so funny how that has now become my everyday life here in Korea). This area is predominantly rice paddies which makes the landscape look even more beautiful. 1924034_1121808856900_1121_n

1924034_1121809056905_6862044_nWe then arrived at Tam Coc. Tam Coc is the most famous attraction in Ninh Binh. It is a beautiful river surrounded by rice paddies and incredible karst towers.1924034_1121808536892_29097_n

We hired a woman to row a small boat down the river for us and we were both in awe at the sheer beauty of the area. We also got to go in to one of the many caves in the area.1924034_1121808736897_3666994_n

1924034_1121812136982_3201018_nI highly recommend a trip to Ninh Binh, it is just south of Hanoi and most of the bus tickets that bring you North/South, South/North will stop in Ninh Binh to drop you off and collect you. Beware though! When it came time to leave, we had prebooked our bus and for some reason it never turned up! We were left standing in a dark street by ourselves for about 3 hours when we finally realized that the man that kept on telling us the bus was on the way was lying. We ventured back to our guesthouse to find that they were fully booked. Luckily, they were amazing people so they let us sleep in their own bedroom. The next night, we were lucky to get the last two beds on the bus.1924034_1121809016904_6893938_n

So if you have the time…make sure to stop in Ninh Binh for a couple of days.1924034_1121810816949_6275992_n1924034_1121811256960_3922959_n