Ninh Binh,Vietnam – The Land Before Time

WHERE is Ninh Binh?

Ninh Binh is located about 90 KM south from Hanoi and they currently hold the record for having the biggest Buddha Statue in South East Asia. Besides that record, they are packed with stunning and untouched beauty of nature.

BEFORE moving on, ask yourself this :

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Are you afraid being surrounded by trees, paddy fields or even farm animals?
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Is climbing stairs a problem for you?
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Will you be overwhelmed by nature?

If you answer is NO to the above then carry on reading =)

The Land Before Time, is a cartoon I remembered growing up watching and Ninh Binh reminds me so much of it. I would like to share my 3 days 2 nights journey with you and hopefully this allows you to make a better decision.

DAY 1 : Bai Dinh Pagoda

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Entrance to Bai Dinhh Pagoda

Here is the entrance to Bai Dinh Pagoda and if you could see the ‘Motorbike Taxi’s’ on your right, just be WARY. ‘Motorbike Taxi’s’ will always try to approach you with an offer be it transportation, accommodation or escort services. Their command of English is not very good so just smile, politely declined them and carry on.

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Tourist Map of Bai Dinh Pagoda

You will be charge an entrance fee of 50,000 VND per 1 adult and there is an option of having a personal tour guide for additional 300,000 VND. The tour guide will only usher you to the main attraction and provide information about that particular destination. Since the venue is huge, there is also buggy services available and they charge 30,000 VND from one end to the other. I personally took the tour package and it took me half a day to complete.

Note : Touring the whole of Bai Dinh Pagoda on your own will take you at least the 1 day.

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My point of view
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Breathtaking wouldn’t you agree?
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A little stunt for an amazing picture

On the same day : Van Long Nature Reserve

Van Long Nature Reserve was a breathtaking experience for me. Not only are you able to enjoy the boat rides, you get to row them as well (if you want). There is no building, no traffic, but plain old mother nature at its best!

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Entrance to Van Long Nature Reserve
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50,000 Dong for approximately 1 hour boat ride

Note : I was told that the boat paddlers here are only able to get 1 boat ride per WEEK as there are many paddlers looking to make that extra buck. From that 50,000 VND charge, they only make 35,000 VND per trip. If you enjoyed your ride as I did, you could tip your paddler as a kind gesture.

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Getting comfortable while enjoying the ride
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I am blown away by the beauty the earth provides

DAY 2 : Trang An

Instead of being surround by tall lit up buildings and the hustle and bustle of the city, you get the complete opposite here. All that surrounds you here is nature’s finest landscape surrounding Trang An.

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Your ride will take about 3 hours, here is why…
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Adult : 200,000 VND / Child : 100,000 VND Ticket Charges
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Boat Paddlers waiting for customer

Note : On the other hand, boat paddlers here make about 200,000 VND per trip. Take it as though you have a driver who drives you around for almost 3 hours. A tiny gesture would be very useful for these farmers by profession.

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Silenced by the breathtaking view
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My first experience rowing a boat, you should try as it was fun!
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Grumpy!

If you have not watched Kong : Skull Island, I reckon you so. That was how I found out about this hidden gem.

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Grumpy! I don’t see Kong…
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Since I didn’t catch Kong, I will just make my way

DAY 3 : Hang Mua

All my life, I have lived in the city and never experience traditional style of living. I cannot imagine living in rural areas where the lights go off by 6.00 PM in the evening accompanied by the sounds of ducks quacking and cows mooing. My visit to Hang Mua has left me with a different perspective.

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100,000 VND entree fee
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The famous 500 steps of Mua Cave

Note : I would suggest to pack light as the height of each stairs is 1 feet. Be prepared for a workout =)

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Don’t be afraid of these steps, the view is worth it.
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Almost to the top, and it gets much better!
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My Golden Hour moment.

TRAVEL Itinerary [22nd DEC 2017 – 25th DEC 2017]

WEATHER : Condition of the weather was satisfying. During the day you get about 21 – 25 degrees and at night it can go down to 16 degrees.

ACCOMMODATION : My hotel of choice, Golden Dragon Hotel & Services and I got to say it was pretty amazing and I would definitely stay here again.

  • Cleanliness : 10/10
  • Peaceful : 10/10
  • Spaciousness : 8/10
  • Affordability : 7/10
  • Friendly Employee : 7/10
  • Food : 6/10

You can actually rent motorbikes from the hotel itself. Manual transmission bikes are FREE but unfortunately Auto transmission bikes are charged at 150,000 VND per day. It is advisable to book the bikes ahead as they are first come first served basis.

TRANSPORTATION : The bikes are used for touring around Ninh Binh, but I also relied on taxis to get around as well. The GREEN Metered Taxis by Mailinh Group are my personal choice as they charge by meter and they are one of the top taxi companies in Vietnam.

Pleaseeeeeeeeeeee avoid the White Taxi by SH unless you don’t have a choice. The driver justifies the cost according to your destination and obviously it is to RIP YOU OFF. To me I see it as a SCAM.

TRAVEL Expenses Summary [3 Days 2 Nights]

  • Air plane ticket : 2,000,000 VND 
  • Hotel (3 days 2 nights + breakfast included) : 1,200,000 VND roughly
  • Public transportation : 1,300,000 VND
  • Food (lunch and dinner) : 1,500,000 VND 
  • Sight seeing (4 venues) : 640,000 VND

GETTING to Ninh Binh

Travelling to Ninh Binh is not difficult. This was how I managed :

  1. Book a round trip flight ticket with VietJetAir from Ho Chi Minh (SGN) to Thanh Hoa (THD).
  2. When you arrive Thanh Hoa (THD) airport, there will be many unregistered ‘taxi’s’ which provides transport services.
  3. UNFORTUNATELY, their command of English is not very good, so provide Ninh Binh Hotel Location to them in a proper manner OR talk to airport employees to help translate to the drivers.
  4.  Be prepared for a 2 hours journey ride to Ninh Binh.

Note : There is always other alternatives to Ninh Binh and the most common one is by flying to Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) / Hanoi. From Hanoi, you would need to book a Taxi / Bus ride to Ninh Binh and it takes you approximately 2 hours journey.

TIPS on visiting Ninh Binh

  1. Pack Light : you don’t need any fancy clothing (unless to take pictures/videos).
  2. Plan Ahead : do your research on where you would like to go and what do they have to offer.
  3. Language Translator Tools : comes in very handy especially in this area where English speaking Vietnamese are mainly tour guides, city folks and sometimes hotel employees.
  4. Food that you Eat : always double check on the meat you consume here as having dog meat for dinner is very common in this part of town. WHEN in doubt, DON’T eat. There are many alternatives like fish,vegetables and fruits to get by.
  5. Local Sim Card : for safety reasons just get yourself a local sim card. That way, you are able to call hotel/taxi if needed.

GRUMPY Meter

  • The fact that they eat dogs : 0/10
  • Mediocre food : 5/10
  • Long distance travel period : 5/10
  • Clean Fresh Air : 8/10
  • Nature all around : 10/10

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