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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Visiting a Tea Shop in Seoul

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If you only go to Seoul once then this has to be on your list of things to do!

This is one of my favorite things to do when I visit.

Insadong is a very famous street in Seoul, it is very touristy and has souvenir shops and art galleries everywhere! But it also has many tea shops hidden up stairs or down alleyways. Last weekend, myself and Jason had to go to Seoul for my American visa interview. We both knew that it would be our last time in Seoul so we decided to revisit Insadong while there. I have always loved this area, the buzz of the streets and the diversity of the people that shop there.wpid-fotor_143926508161320.jpg

Luckily, the hotel that we were staying in was right next to Insadong which was perfect for us. After wandering the streets for a while we decided it was time for tea.

When choosing between places to have tea in Insadong, I always try to choose an older tea shop rather than the newer ones that have been popping up recently. We chose one up a stairs.wpid-fotor_143921165510145.jpg

Once we got to the top of the stairs I knew that we had chosen well. The doors leading to the shop were absolutely beautiful.wpid-fotor_143921072246881.jpg

Once we were inside, it was like an oasis of calm. You could tell that it was a very old shop. It had lots of different areas allowing us to relax in a small corner by ourselves.wpid-fotor_143921090721268.jpg

wpid-fotor_143921152604128.jpgWe were brought a menu with so many different tea options! Seriously, they had so many types! Myself and Jason both decided to stick with green tea (of which they had plenty of different options)wpid-fotor_143921080285311.jpg

Jason chose a fermented tea (which we had tasted and loved during our temple stay) and I chose a regular green tea.

When the tea came out, it came out with a traditional tea set each. The lady set it down and walked away. We had both watched tea being made using these tea sets before but there was an extra bowl this time around which confused us. I ended up having to google it and found out that the extra bowl was a waste bowl (you pour hot water in to the pot and other bowls first to warm them up and then pour that water in to the big bowl.wpid-fotor_143921110328219.jpg

Both of our teas were delicious! I think we must have sat there for about an hour just chatting and watching the world go by.wpid-fotor_143921116141839.jpg

It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Seoul.

 

wpid-fotor_143921126531684.jpgWhere we went: We chose Jidaebang tea house which is on the main Insadong road. You can find the trip advisor reviews here.