27/03/2018 – 29/03/2018
The week after I went to Sapa I took myself on another little break to Ninh Binh, a place that had been on my must-see list for a while. King Kong was even filmed there, so I thought I had to see the incredible scenery for myself.
I’ve heard Ninh Binh being referred to as ‘Ha Long Bay on land’ and it’s easy to see why as the karst formations (which I’ve learnt is a fancy way of saying the particular rock formations found there) are everywhere you look. I arrived early afternoon and my first point of call was the Tam Coc boat tour, which was a stones throw away from where I was staying. The boat ride wasn’t nearly as touristy as I was expecting, I guess I just got there at the right time, and it was really stunning. I did have to be an awkward turtle though and find a stranger to share with because the boats only go with two people in them!
Next I walked to Bich Dong Pagoda as it was only about a thirty minute walk through the rice paddies. It was nice enough but not as spectacular as I was expecting, and you can see far better views in other places and there are more impressive pagodas in Ninh Binh.
On my second day in Ninh Binh I did something that was quite brave for me and I rented a bike… a bicycle that is! This is a big feat for me (but not for Vietnamese children) because I cannot stand the roads and traffic here. But the roads were perfect for cycling as the area is relatively flat and the roads are wide and generally quiet. I got a little lost on the way and cycled through some very rocky rice paddies but that was all part of the fun, and I had to stop to check I was going in the right direction every five seconds so I probably could have walked there faster but I eventually made my way to Hang Mua peak.
The caves were nothing special and I just kinda glanced in, it was more about the view from the peak. It was a sweaty climb to the top but the 360 views over Tam Coc made it all worth it. It was a bit misty but so green!
Next I cycled to Trang An to go on yet another boat tour. I enjoyed the Tam Coc one the day before and I had heard that this one was even better. I had to find some random people to share it with again but they were nice. The Trang An tour is meant to be a lot less touristy in comparison to the Tam Coc one, but unfortunately I didn’t experience that because we ended up following a bus load of tourists. It’s cool though because you get to pick which route to go on (we picked route 2) and stop off at a pagoda and Skull Island in the middle. And they seemed a lot more official and didn’t ask for tips or try to make you buy something from a hawker.
After I went back for a late lunch. I’d cycled about 20km that day and I didn’t know how further my little legs could take me. Then I went to Thung Nham bird park which was so quiet and peaceful, I hardly saw anyone else. There are many birds but also caves and other things such as the thousand year old tree.
When I got back to the homestay there was a family dinner going on and there was so much food, and of course lots of homemade rice wine!
Overall, I loved Ninh Binh and would love to go back to explore the further out areas like Van Long and Cuc Phuong. It’s such a beautiful, laid back place and my favourite part was probably just cycling around and taking in the views.
Have you ever been to Ninh Binh? What did you think?
If you want to see more photos of my travels you can check out my Flickr