I took a flight to Hanoi and caught a coach to Ninh Binh from Giap Bat parking station. Learned from the experience of the previous tour from Mai Chau to Hanoi, I did not catch the coach on the way but came directly to the parking station to avoid being rammed into the coach. I will share you things to do in Ninh Binh in 3 days I stayed here.
I arrived in Ninh Binh at around midday. Almost people have taken off on the way so at the final station, there are just several people. Ninh Binh parking station is quite small with one side is the gathering place of many stalls for snack and drinks. I dropped to a little stall of a middle aged woman to buy a bottle of fresh water, a cups of tea, a pack of sunflower seeds and wait for the home-stay shuttle bus to come to pick up.
1. Tam Coc – Bich Dong Area & my homestay
A jeep of my home-stay came to pick me up and took me to the home-stay. I have came to Ninh Binh for several time in the one day tours provided to visit Tam Coc – Bich Dong, which did not give me so much experience. I decided to come back this time and stay at Nguyen Shack Home-stay to get new experience about this land.
Nguyen Shack Home-stay is around 15 km from the center of Ninh Binh city which is nestled on the side of a limestone mountain behind the vast rice fields in green. As soon as arriving at the home-stay, I found it my taste with all the thing gentle and simple and rustic which are made of bamboo and wood. The staffs are friendly and humorous. They seem to be a bit surprised when receiving some Vietnamese like me to come to the home-stay as they think that Vietnamese are often interested in the luxury and modern space rather than this kind of home-stay. I laughed and said that there were so many Vietnamese also interested in this kind of accommodation, but they just had not seen.
2. Motor or cycle riding to explore rice fields
I spent 3 days here for my discovery. For the first day, I rode my motorbike to the village crossing the immense paddy fields which are pretty as a painting. I always be into the peaceful and rustic beauty of the rural village in the North of Vietnam with bayan tree next to the old temple, the bunch of bamboo on the side of the well and the winding roads along the fences which appear as if those from the fairy tails I’ve read.
The village was so peaceful and gorgeous the days I came to visit. One more interesting thing is that there was no sunshine and the space is humid and groom with lots of clouds. On the way of riding bike. I sometimes saw the flock of cows and buffaloes coming back from the field after a day of finding food. I wanted to find a café to have a test but it seemed to be difficult and I found only a shop for goat meat on the river shore. I came over and found that many customers also came here from the city center by their cars parking outside. I also saw many department stores along the road where they sell a lot of duck eggs.
3. Experience local dishes as goat meat, grilled rice, river-fish…
I had a meal with the special dishes of stir fried goat meat and grilled goat meat as I heard that goat meat is the special dish in Ninh Binh. They are all taste very good but the the cost is not cheap. After the meal, I came back to my home-stay, having a bath, making a cup of coffee and then get on the bed with the mosquito net as there are so many mosquitoes here. I lay on the bed listening to the song of frogs outside and then fall into a tight sleep until the next morning.
4. Do a boat trip in Trang An
The new day came without sunshine or any ray of yellow light. I opened my eyes and saw a blur and milky color outside. My tour today shall be a tour to Trang An, Bai Dinh and Van Long. This time coming here, I found the attraction more deserted than the last time maybe because of the bad weather.
However, Trang An is pretty on its own way in such a gloomy day. I met with a lovely boat rower who took me for the tour in Trang An. She did not mention about the tip but I I gave her some after the tour to thank her for the hard work to take us along the river.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Ninh Binh is favored so much by the Mother Nature with the inheritance of the gorgeous Tam Coc and also the fairy attraction of Trang An. On a gloomy day, the landscapes become fanciful and attractive. Sitting on the boat admiring the surrounding landscapes under the blur layer of dew, I thought that I was getting lost in a fairy land which is mysterious, fascinating but peaceful.
5. Visit one of the most amazing architeculture: Bai Dinh Pagoda
Leaving Trang An, I came to visit Bai Dinh Pagoda which is the least favorite attraction in Ninh Binh for me. I am interested in the little, ancient and simple temples rather than the recorded ones for their majestic beauty like Bai Dinh. I paid a very short visit to the attraction and then leaved for Van Long.
6. Come over Van Long Nature Reserve
The last time I came to Van Long, the surrounding areas are almost paddy fields. My visit took place in the end of spring when the fields are in lush green of the rice full of vitality. However, it is now different. I heard from the boat rower that they do not grow rice any more and also do not find any other kind of plant to replace, so the area is not very nice with thick reeds. I was so disappointed when coming to Van Long as I had expected a lot before.
7. Hang Mua (Mua Cave) – a inspiration of Great Wall
Mua Cave is the next destination in my tour which is nearby the home-stay I live.in the morning, after having a bowl of noodle, I started to visit Mua Cave. I am myself interested in this destination the most during this backing trip to Ninh Binh. The entrance ticket is 100.000 VND (~$4,5) per person without tour guide, map or drinks which is quite expensive but it worth as the landscapes are so gorgeous. I climbed to Ngoa Long Mountain first before entering the cave. Stepping through 500 steps, I reached the mountain peak with the amazing view that I believe that all tourists shall be fascinated about. In my opinion, this is considered the must see destination when coming to Ninh Binh.
Both sides of the mountain are all pretty. One side is the vast field in green and many limestone mountains of various height scattered on the field. They are all gorgeous as a painting painted by an experience painter who are into the nature. On the other side, you will see the picturesque valley of Tam Coc with the charming river of Ngo Dong winding through the rice fields and the mountains covered with green trees. They all create an attractive scene fascinating all visitors.
Standing on the top of Ngoa Long Mountain, I could not help speaking out that Ninh Binh is so beautiful. Admiring the below scenes, I really don’t want to trek down to the foot. I wonder how amazing it will be on a brighter day with sunshine and when the paddy fields are in yellow with mature grains. In such a dewy and gloomy day, it remains as fascinating as that. I thanked the god to let it gloomy that day so that I have a reason to come back here on a sunny day. Certainly, such a pretty and peaceful place is worth visiting again and again.
I gradually got down from the mountain peak while admiring those gorgeous views. I then enter Mua Cave. Getting through the cave, I found a pretty small lane along the mountain foot leading toward Tam Coc. Yo ushall get the experience of passing the little rock caves, crossing the green dunes of grass to come to Tam Coc. At the end of the road, you can reach Ngo Dong River after walking through a section of paddy field where you will be getting the amazing experience of sitting on boat and admiring the beauty of a famous attraction Tam Coc Bich Dong. The calm and gentle current of the river boosts the boat travel slowly in the middle of a peaceful space with the sky, the fields, the river and the mountains. The gorgeous painting of Ninh Binh really fascinate the people coming to the place.
8. Enjoy a drink and admire the sunset into the hamorny of nature
It’s almost midday, so I started coming back my homestay. It remained gloomy as the day I came without any sunshine. The life here flows slowly with a flock of duck floating on the river; some foreign visitors sit on the shores patiently with their fishing rods and some other start their tour around the village with their bikes. The bustle and crowded city life was totally left behind. I made a cup of tea and enjoyed them while lying on the hammock, admiring the nature with the song of birds. It was my last peaceful and gentle day of the tour to Ninh Binh.