Ninh Binh is such a beautiful destination that there are also many Vietnamese people come to visit this city. Moreover, it just takes about 2 hours to drive away from the busy city life of Hanoi to Ninh Binh. Let’s find out what the amazing places are and what you can do here!
A spectacular journey by boat
There are two boat tours lead to different areas to take a boat trip. Tam Coc is often chosen by international tourists, but I highly recommend visiting Trang An Ecotourism Complex instead. One small tip is that you could avoid the crowd and enjoy the serenity visiting in the early morning or late afternoon.
Surrounded by endless paddy fields and by the karsts towering above, a row down this river is such a peaceful, serene experience. As the local women row the boats smoothly, you would be captivated by the natural beauty of the area at a gentle pace. An interesting fact is most rowers can lead the boat with both their arms and legs, using the extra power of their legs for the hour-and-a-half boat journey.
Known as the Ha Long Bay on land with towers of limestone just out above the waterways, but here in Trang An, the experience is just unique, somehow more personal.
Boarding a sampan, a small wooden rowboat, is also a more intimate way to experience your surroundings and yourself. With the water spreading just beneath you, cruise through darkened caves with low-hanging limestone ceilings. Watch the lesser whistling ducks patterned in black and white swimming in small flocks. Emerge from glimmers in the darkness to secret water valleys surrounded by lush rice fields and colorful flowers.
A great cycling tour
After an amazing boat trip to discover the waterways of Ninh Binh, why don’t you get a bicycle and enjoy the most vivid sceneries onland? Ninh Binh is the cycling Nirvana.
While in Ninh Binh there is an easy cycling route through the semi-urban villages, past scenes of the endless rice fields. You could easily spot limestone hills, graveyards, houses and a French-colonial cathedral just off the main street.
As soon as you get out of the “town”, you can see many tiny paths on the small dam between the ponds. Goats, buffalos, cows, as well as quacking ducks are literally everywhere. You can stop for a while and use your chances to take a deep breath and capture photos of the friendly locals and their cattle. Ninh Binh is truly a cycling paradise.
What to eat?
Feeling hungry and craving for delicious food after cycling? The area around Ninh Binh is best known for its rare goat meat, crispy rice crackers (com chay), and eel vermicelli.
Unlike the goats in other regions, Ninh Binh goats are grown on rocky mountains. Thus, the goat meat here is much more nutritious and delicious than goats raised on hills in other provinces. Moreover, Ninh Binh folks have their own secret recipe to cook goat meat into many special dishes.
If you have a chance to visit this area, look at a menu and you would see a long list of unique, signature dishes, each of which has its own remarkable flavor.
On the way back to Hanoi
Even when it is time to say goodbye to Ninh Binh, you still can stop off at Phat Diem, a huge 19th-century cathedral. The Phat Diem Cathedral is one of the most spectacular church buildings located on the route back to Hanoi.
It is surrounded by smaller structures in the same style, highlighting incredible Sino-Vietnamese architecture marked with European stylistic influences. The best light falls at around 3 in the afternoon when there are very few tourists. Even if you are not able to enter the buildings, the exteriors alone are worth the stop.