Wednesday 2nd October 2019
Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Today we were heading to Ninh Binh.
Ninh Binh is a small, quaint city just 50 miles south of Hanoi. It’s best known for it’s topography and stunning landscapes and its one of the most storied provinces in the north of Vietnam.
The locals have been known to nickname this rural region the “Ha Long Bay in land” due to its massive limestone cliffs scattered in between the rice fields, ancient pagodas and endless caves. And once we catch sight of this we can see why.
The scenery level is outstanding, the locals extremely friendly and the whole place still looks and feels an authentic gem.
Its 68 miles from Hanoi centre but along the way we had the chance to enjoy beautiful landscapes in one of the most storied provinces in the north of Vietnam.
We visited the glimmering Bai Dinh pagoda complexes, the largest in Southeast of Asia.
These are scenically set on the foot hill of Dinh Mountain surrounded by amazing views of the exquisite river valley below and limestone karsts dotted around – it takes your breath away.
Along with these temples and pagodas are plenty of monuments, tombs, shrines to worship many other famous people and Gods.
This pagoda complex stunningly boasts an array of the most massive and magnificant architecture of Vietnamese tradition ever built and it would take a full day to explore.
We visited some of the highlights: 500 stone statues of “La Han” (Arhats), 2 huge bronze bells, one weighs 27 tons, other weighs 36 tons and 3 bronze statues of Tam The (50 tons each).
The area was quite exceptional, it was massive and grand. Everything was colourful and rich looking.
It houses gilt bronze statues of Asia’s largest, its 100 ton!!!
Our guide Ivan told us this was the place to come to let your mind breath and re-set.
Vietnamese people could visit here and stay if they so wished, paying for it of course.
It was a place of tranquility, peace and the air felt much cleaner.
From here we decided to have a buffet style lunch with Vietnamese Cuisines, then it was off to the river.
We had heard that the best way to capture this City’s beauty is by taking a boat ride along the river.
In the Ninh Binh province of Northern Vietnam is Tam Coc, a great nature destination, which translates in English as three caves.
The three caves are nestled in a scenic landscape of limestone cliffs and rice paddies, and the river winds through the region….it is often referred to as “Ha Long among the rice paddies”.
So we start our excursion on Ngo Dong River in Tam Coc.
They say this is one of the most picturesque spots in all of the north and this is supposed to be the most exciting boat trip with sampan boats.
Vietnamese call Tam Coc the Green Sea, and when you see it you’ll understand once your eyes witness the scenery of the paddy fields.
This was the area they used to film King Kong and ‘Skull Island’ is here!!
We took a boat ride along the peaceful Tam Coc stream past green fields at the feet of mountains.
We then entered the mouths of caves (Hang Ca – Hang Hai and Hang Ba), where we encountered new surprises, like stalactites and stalagmites that shimmer like gemstones just inches from the water.
Local men but mostly women row people in these boats for two solid hours! It’s some shift if I’m being honest with you, beautiful location but some effort.
The women have oars but also in each of the boats are small paddles should you wish to help. We helped the whole way!! There was no way could we sit and let this woman row us for two hours! Theirs skills though were quite amazing, contouring us through the caves.
Ivan had told us previously that these women (and the odd man) do this for extra money as well as work in their rice fields and look after their family.
They undertake 2 rowing trips a day if it’s busy.
The area were we paddle used to be a fishing area but its since been closed off – the boat trips offering a greater opportunity for business!
As if we hadn’t done enough we then decided to hire some bicycles so we could discover the nearby attractions with green fields and see some more daily life of the locals.
We cycled on quiet roads through villages, rice fields, rivers and rocky outcrops.
This place does this to you, its so beautiful you just want more and more and more.
To almost finish of the evening we relaxed some and even swam before heading to dinner and boy did it feel good as the humidity has been so high here today.
Tonight we are staying in a homestay bungalow made of bamboo in Trang An. The area is in the country on farmland – a farmer developed his land to entice visitors his way. It’s a beautiful spot.