Ninh Binh

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.

Our bungalow

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Alice Reid says:

    hello Mary and Andy..
    I’m at last able to comment on your wonderful “blogs”. I have been reading them but haven’t had a chance to reply. Thought at first you’d gone to Holland to look for more mountains to climb but surprised to hear you were actually en route to Vietnam and Cambodia. Was surprised you didn’t seem too enthusiastic about Van Goch. I love his paintings and that was one of the highlights for me when we visited Amsterdam.
    The mountains in Vietnam seem quite impressive , they remind me a bit of the Yangzi Gorges in China. We saw some pictures of them and would love to have visited them but never got round to it. Your cruise sounded fantastic, just the sort of thing Jane would have enjoyed😀😀.
    Were you not tempted to do some mountaineering while in Vietnam.
    Good that you have local guides as the language would be quite a problem. It’s also good to have a local guide as sometimes they give you information not found in guide books.
    Quite a change of holiday for you as normally you go climbing mountains .What enticed you to visit Vietnam and Cambodia. Will you be visiting Ho Chi Minh? I have heard so much about the underground tunnels there and would love to have visited them. Apparently they were used by Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnamese war..
    Looking forward to more of your “blogs”and hope you are keeping free of tummy sets.
    Martin and Jane were here yesterday bringing Luke back as he is off to Afghanistan on Friday. Perhaps you can put that on your list for a future date 😜😜
    Happy Travelling. Love /God Bless Aunty Alice xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Auntie Alice…online as your email came in! Lol re your comment of climbing mountains in Holland… definitely no altitude sickness there that’s for sure!! I actually do like Van Gogh like you (see another commonality we have) but I know alot of others who don’t. I think his madness appealed to me aswell as his art! I have a few copies of his paintings at home but Monet is my favourite artist!
      So I’ve always been interested in Vietnam and it’s history/people etc…and it’s always just somewhere I’ve wanted to travel through to be honest with you. Yes the shapes of the mountains here are stunning, lovely to look at and yes probably similar in shape to those in China. Jane certainly would have loved that cruise for sure…we wondered what had hit us as we didn’t need to squat for the toilet 🤣😉….were hoping to do many different things travelling north to south. We hope to hike in Sapa which is the mountainous part of Vietnam…weather up there though in this season can be wet but it’s harvest time and we wanted to see the rice fields. We are hoping to climb a mountain there but there are conflicting views about needing a guide and not needing a guide and as you know we sometimes like to do things our own way so we shall see! The ‘guide’ that we have had so far has been amazing – young guy who knew his knowledge about temples/pagodas/Vietnam history and he told us lots of stories about his grandfather who was in the war…pretty special! Yes we are going to HCM City….and will be visiting the Chu Chi tunnels so I’ll make sure I get loads of photos for you… they were used in the war and a major part of Vietnam winning that war was because of these Tunnels….pretty exceptional! Tummy is up and down but I’m coping!! Yes Martin was telling me about Luke – wow – now there would be an adventure….NOT! Hope everything is good with you and your gang and glad to hear your keeping up to speed on our adventures – Andy’s says hi too 😘


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