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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NC Dinos Baseball Game

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This past Saturday, myself and Jason decided to go and see a baseball game. Baseball is absolutely huge here in Korea and the games are so much fun!
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We usually go to see the Lotte Giants play in Busan but the Changwon team, the NC Dinos, is actually closer to us so we decided to check out their stadium.

Being from Ireland, I don’t really know much about American sports but having a husband who loves all of the American sports I’m slowly learning.

We arrived at the stadium about an hour and a half early to buy some tickets. We then went for some coffee while waiting.

Something that is really cool about stadiums in Korea is that you are allowed to bring your own food, drink and alcohol! There are sellers outside the stadium selling the typical baseball food here…fried chicken, gimbab and squid.
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Jason bought a couple of rolls of gimbab and we went in to the stadium. Even if you don’t buy your food outside, the prices inside aren’t extortionate.

I bought a hot dog and chips and we settled down in to our seats. Each seat has a table, which is pretty cool! I had lots of questions for Jason and he was very good explaining all of the rules of baseball to me.
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The game itself was pretty disappointing for the Dinos. But the lively songs and chants definitely made up for it! Every hitter has their own theme song that the fans sing. I took a video of it which you can watch here.

Jason tells me that American baseball isn’t like this which makes me a little sad. I love the songs and dances involved in Korean baseball!

All in all it was a great day, perfect weather and good seats and to top it all off the parking in the stadium was free!
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There are baseball teams in nearly all of the big cities so if you are here in Korea, grab yourself some beers and a box of fried chicken and get yourself to a game, you won’t be disappointed!
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A Sunday Stroll

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Spring is here, the weather is absolutely beautiful and there is nothing better to do on a Sunday morning than bringing our pup for a nice long walk around our neighborhood.
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Our first stop of the day was to the old part of our city. I absolutely love this area. It is where all of the foreigners from different parts of Asia and Russia have settled down. We love coming here to eat as you can find Indian, Nepalese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Moroccan, Uzbek, Russian, Cambodian and Chinese food here.
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We decided to go to the covered market. Myself and Jason love it because it makes us feel like we are back in South East Asia. You can smell spices and get lots of fruits from different parts of Asia here. We picked up a few vegetables and meat and were off again.
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A new dog cafe has also just opened up in this area so we decided to check it out. They had a big golden retriever and standard sized poodle so Willy played with (tried to hump) them.
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Unfortunately they didn’t have any coffee so afterwards we headed to one of my favorite cafes in Gimhae for our caffeine fix.
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This cafe is just outside of the Royal Tomb of King Suro (the most famous monument in Gimhae) so there is a beautiful sense of calm here.
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We finally headed home and our pup was nice and tired from his little adventure (although that didn’t stop him from “helping” me fold the laundry).
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A perfect Sunday morning!

Busan Canola Flower Festival

IMG_8764What a great festival this was!
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The Nakdong River Yuchae Flower Festival is only in its fourth year but it’s a really great festival that I’d recommend to everyone living nearby.

IMG_8789For a few weeks the big riverside area of the Nakdong river transforms in to a mesmerizing sea of yellow canola flowers for as far as the eye can see.

IMG_8765We are lucky because it is only a 30 minute subway ride from Gimhae to the festival. Myself, Jason and our friend Ian decided to go last Friday after school. Once we arrived I immediately fell in love with this small festival.
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There were a few tents selling food and drinks but it’s nowhere near as big as the many other festivals that I’ve experienced here in Korea. For me, this just made the festival even more wonderful. There is a very laid back feel to it and there weren’t many people there.
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Which meant that we had plenty of opportunities to take photos of the flowers without people.
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As you can see from the photos, it was absolutely beautiful there and I’m sure sunrise would be magical as the sun rises from behind the city.

IMG_8794How to get there:

Take the brown line (line 3) of the Busan subway system to Gangseo-gu office. From there you can take exit number 2 and it’s about a 15 minute walk to the park.

Cheontaesa Temple (천태사)

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Having lived in Asia for 5 years I’ve seen my fair share of temples. It takes a lot for a temple to take my breath away these days and that’s exactly what Cheontaesa temple did.
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We actually found it completely by mistake. We were driving to a beautiful riverside area in Wondong just outside of Yangsan. On our way we had to go up a mountain pass and coming down we saw the entrance to the temple. We quickly found a spot along the road to park. Even the outside of this temple is beautiful. There were beautiful Spring flowers blooming all around and a small stream running near the temple. There was also a small building next to it with some hens clucking around freely.
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We walked under the entrance way and up a small hill to get to the main temple area. It was very quiet with only a handful of people there. There was also an eerie voice playing on a speakerphone with some traditional music (I’m guessing it was explaining the history of the temple).
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From the main area there was a stairway build in to the surrounding rocks. We climbed up and about halfway up we managed to get an incredible view of a giant Buddha carved in to the mountain across from us. It was absolutely beautiful and we were both pleasantly surprised by it.
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We then climbed the remaining steps to find a small shrine area in a small cave at the top.
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Afterwards we walked over to the area with the giant Buddha. There were lots of other beautiful stone carvings and statues.
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There was also a short hike up to a waterfall behind the temple. We climbed some of the way but didn’t have time to climb the rest. I definitely want to come back and finish that hike!
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It was such a lovely temple, it was so calming and peaceful there and we could have definitely spent a day there sitting and enjoying the zen-like atmosphere of this temple.
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Getting there:

Unfortunately you need a car to get here. It is between the towns of Samnangjin and Wondong. and about 20 minutes outside of Yangsan city.

The actual address is: Yongdang-ri, Wondong-myeon, Yangsan-si, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival Take 2!

IMG_8706So last year I wrote about our trip to Jinhae for the Cherry Blossom festival here but we didn’t really plan it well so we spent our entire time wandering the streets of Jinhae and not finding the areas where the blossoms are at their most beautiful. Unfortunately we didn’t find any of them.

This year we definitely didn’t want a repeat of that so we set off after work with our two friends Ian and Ane hoping to see the cherry blossoms at the two most famous places, The Gyeonghwa train station and Yeojwacheon stream. We had planned on visiting it next week during the week (less crowds) but after checking the weather forecast and finding out that rain was forecasted until this Sunday we decided to go sooner just in case the rain blew away the blossoms.IMG_8677

So we set off in the rain on the lookout for our first stop; The Gyeonghwa train station. We initially got mixed up and instead found the Jinhae train station and realised that we were in the wrong place but after setting the sat nav we finally arrived at the station.

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It was just as beautiful as I had imagined. The rain made everything seem even more romantic and kept the crowds away. Luckily the blossoms were in full bloom and we spent about 30 minutes here taking it all in.

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Afterwards we went to the area where the festival was being held on the looout for some dinner. We found a chicken restaurant and quickly ate. Afterwards we got back in to the car on our way to the Yeojwacheon stream. It was now dark and we were worried that it mightn’t be as picturesque but they had cute lights up all around the stream and it still looked absolutely beautiful!IMG_8758

IMG_8752IMG_8763We had a great time at the festival and being able to see it this year without the crowds and in full bloom definitely made up for not finding it last year. I 100% recommend this festival to everyone in Korea although I have to admit that having a car made getting from place to place a lot easier. I also recommend trying to go to the festival during the week as there are far fewer crowds than at weekends.IMG_8757

Finally, check the bus schedule before going. I’ve heard that buses in to Jinhae bus terminal get cancelled around the festival time so you may have to get a bus to Changwon and then take a city bus to Jinhae.IMG_8678

Currently…Spring is here!

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The cherry blossoms have arrived which can only mean one thing…IT’S SPRING!

These past few weeks were busy ones for me.  Last Wednesday was Jasons birthday so I’ve been trying to plan the best 30th birthday for him. We celebrated it this past Saturday and luckily he had a great day!
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I organised a scavenger hunt for him. I’ve realized that once we leave Korea in August we’ll never be able to return to all of our “first” places. So his scavenger hunt led him to our first hike, the first place we kissed, we said I love you, our first date, where we met and finally to where he proposed (which is our apartment) where we had a small party with lots of food and drink.
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I gave him his first clue of the day and sent him off in a taxi by himself. I could tell that he was a little worried that he would be spending his birthday just walking around by himself. But I had planned on having one of our friends meet him at each place and the day went perfectly! He told me that it was his best adult birthday which was so nice to hear.
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I feel so lucky to have such amazing and talented friends! Our friend Ane made this beautiful painting for us.

 

Yesterday myself, Jason and Willy took a walk around our neighborhood to take in the cherry blossoms. It’s crazy because they only last a week or two before they are all blown away so we feel like we need to appreciate them every chance that we get!
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We have also been taking some time out over the weekends to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather.
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Tomorrow we’ll be going to Jinhae where the biggest cherry blossom festival in Korea is held. The festival doesn’t begin until Wednesday but with our busy schedules and rain forecasted this Friday we decided to go tomorrow before the rain blows them away.
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I have been researching other festivals that are coming up in Korea over the next couple of months and we are hoping to make it to a few of them. I really love this time of year!

We also bought a new tent and are excited for that to arrive and for us to take some camping trips again soon.

We have a short trip to Seoul planned this Sunday and Monday as we have our first appointment with the American embassy for my Green Card application. I’m so excited/nervous about this next step that we are taking.

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Preparing my visa documents.

So there are plenty of fun stuff coming up this Spring that I’m excited to share with you.

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