Ninh Binh had been on my list of places to visit since I landed in Vietnam, last year. Back in November 2019, I had a day off that I knew I wanted to spend in the country, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and Ninh Binh was the perfect escape.
After being recommended to book with my friend’s tour guide Leon, I sent him a text the Tuesday before and conveniently booked the day trip for the next day. The locals call Ninh Binh – Halong Bay on land. Located in the Northern part of Vietnam, more specifically along the Red River Delta. Its around 2.5 hours to get to Ninh Binh by car. We were travelling in a decked out mini bus or as the locals call it, “a limousine”, so the ride was super smooth and you can bet your tartan socks I had a nap on route. Our first stop along the tour was, Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Dai Co Viet from 986-1010. Here you’ll visit the beautiful temples and fortress.
We travelled for another 40 minutes or so to one of my favourite parts of the tour which was the boat tour to see the Mua Caves. The lake is vast and you must sit two to a boat with your rower using their feet to paddle the boat! It is custom to give buy something for the rowers during part of the trip, some ladies will be sitting in their boats with sweet treats and snacks. Its also custom to tip your rower at the end of the trip too. Your tour guide will explain this to you.
There are three three caves to travel through, which are all extremely low-bearing, so you’ll need to keep an eye out when you’re in those limestone caves and duck down when needed.
After stopping for a scrumptious and plentiful lunch, which offered lots of options for both meat eaters and vegetarians like myself. We powered on and went for a bike ride through the local villages and rice fields. This isn’t a strenuous activity, so for anyone older, the roads are all flat and everyone rides at a decent pace. There is the option to stay at the restaurant but do follow the group, as it’s worth the short ride out to visit the spectacular views of the local lands.
Hang Mua, the final leg of the tour is where you walk through the beautiful eco lodge towards dragon mountain. You can stay a while and lounge in one of the treehouses or join the tourists like I did and take a photo on Hang Mua Swings, before you hike up over 500 steps to the top!
I want to stress that ‘dragon mountain’ is very steep, and you’ll be almost climbing when you’re half way up but don’t let that deter you from seeing this scenic mountainside spot. Thousands of tourists hike up daily, but make sure you wear appropriate clothing and take a bottle of water! It’s totally worth the climb, the views are incredible!
This is just one of the many tours that Leon and his company offer. Leon was an awesome tour and made it even more enjoyable with his knowledge of Ninh Binh and his attention to making sure his guests were happy and well taken care of. Here’s the link for the tour and do check out the other tours on offer.