Ninh Binh is one of those towns a lot of people skip on their from Hanoi. There is nothing for backpackers in the actual town to see, but the landscape surrounding the town in stunning and has been nicknamed the inland Halong bay. The mountain ranges that stand up towering above the green fields makes this place worth a stop in for a day or so, plus I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen someone row a boat with their feet.
One day in Ninh Binh
Just hire a motorbike, go wandering around the fields and get lost amoung the backstreets out of town. Then ride yourself to any of the surrounding natural wonders. I was only there for a day but I would recommend both of the following
Boating in Tam Coc
Tam Coc is about 6km from town and is easy navigate to with a paper map from your hostel. The trip itself costs 150,000dong for the boat and then 120,000 per passenger which you purchase through a ticket box on the dock. The trip takes you down the river beneath 3 caves and through clifs that will explain the nickname of the inland Halong Bay. It’s a peaceful trip down the river for 2hrs winding the huge clifs and into the rivers beneath them. The kicker is that your guide is rowing with their feet! They have it down to an art and casually navigate you in their little boat. At the end of the 3rd cave there will be a bunch of other boats selling things. Quite forcefully at times and you’re captain will linger longer then you want until you firmly tell them to leave. They will also blatantly ask for a tip at the end which is optional but they don’t get many trips per week so it is recommended. Unfortunately I’ve heard from every traveler that they will still screw their face up no matter what they are given at the end. Apart from a few touristy issues like that it’s a stunning way to spend a few hours. Bring a hat through because there is no shade on the boat and it gets hot!
Hang Mua Peak and Caves
I did this strait after boating and I don’t think I’ve ever sweated like I did climbing those 500 or so steps. In saying that when you get to the top it is worth every bead of sweat. The view looks over the river you just rowed along, out of the fields to Ninh Binh and other over mountain ranges in the distance. And there is a dragon on the peak! After you’ve climbed back down head into the caves next to the stairs and cool down in the spring. There is no swimming aloud but you wan walk knee deep along a underwater path through a small system of caves and splash yourself along the way. There is also person selling drinks down there to rehydrate yourself. The entry fee for the area is 100,000dong and includes parking so ignore the people selling parking outside the gate
Eating / drinking
There is no night life in town, or variety of restaurants really. They’re all doing the same thing so I’d just head to the busiest looking one on the street you’re on for a street meal. I went to a place called Trung Tuyet and i’ve never left a restaurant so full.
Getting to and from
- Bus is an easy option to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi, busses depart regularly from the southern bus station. Be sure to go inside and pay for your ticket at a desk though to ensure you get the real price. As of 2017 it was 90,000 for me inc luggage to get to Ninh Binh. The bus station in Ninh Binh is very central and a close walk to many of the hostels in town. Getting away from Ninh Binh requires booking through an agency as the bus station doesn’t sell tickets. Your hostel or hotel will likely be able to arrange this for you.
- Train is also an easy option to take and trains depart from Hanoi. The train leaves at 6:00, 9:00, 13:10, 19:30, 20:10 and 22:10 and takes about 3hrs. be sure not to miss your stop as it’s a quick one apparently!
- Private car will cost you around 85USD but lets be honest the bus was cheap and comfortable
Where to stay
I stayed at Go Ninh Binh hostel which is an old train station. It was a pretty average with no vibe and crappy food but I only went there to sleep. Its cheap and rents motorbikes at a good rate of 100,000 Dong for the day so that was more then enough for me. If you’re looking to stay longer or want something more comfortable there are alot of home stays and hotels on Hostelworld that can offer more then just a bed.
Beer = Shop 20,000 Dong / Bar-there are no bars in town
Water 1.5L = 15,000 Dong
Budget Accommodation = 120,000 Dong
Street meal = 50,000 – 100,000 Dong