Just 100 km South of Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a province of astounding natural beauty with limestone peaks whose splendour is often said to surpass that of Ha Long Bay.
It is even often referred to as “Ha Long Bay on land”. Take a Vietnam Bike Tour to Ninh Binh, Sitting on a boat en route Tam Coc or Trang An, you can relax and enjoy the majestic limestone formations along the river and scattered rice fields to create a charming peaceful getaway. ”
A large swathe of land in Ninh Binh province is characterised by stony outcrops not unlike those at Ha Long Bay, though a bit smaller in size and of course without the water — lakes and rivers aside. If you’re there at the right time of the year, when the paddies are full of water, the reflections make the landscape almost as beautiful as Ha Long Bay.
The best ways to enjoy the scenery are to rent a bicycle or take a boat trip, or both. The main kicking off points for boat trips are Tam Coc and Trang An, although smaller, less tourist outfits can be found near Bich Dong Pagoda and between Trang An and Hoa Lu.
Small boats will be paddled by local woman along the river for a couple of hours, through caves and past paddy fields and karst formations. If you start from Tam Coc you will also visit Thai Vi Pagoda. Whether one route is better than another is open for debate — we’d suggest choosing whichever suits your travel plans better.
Both Tam Coc and Trang An are big tourist attractions — Trang An in particular, though more popular with Vietnamese visitors — so don’t expect to have the river to yourself, but if you avoid weekends and Vietnamese holiday periods it’s not too overwhelming.
Prices at both are fixed but differ: at Tam Coc, Trang An you pay 150,000VND per adult with a maximum of two foreigners per boat. Use these prices as benchmarks if you decide to rent from one of the other operations.
Many of the sights are within 12km of Ninh Binh city, and the land is flat, so they can be reasonably easily reached on a bicycle or motorbike. To really appreciate the scenery you need to get out and about, and — outside of the boat trips — the best way of doing that is by bicycle. Although the most direct way to most of the sights involves driving along main roads, it’s possible to find routes via the backstreets, particularly between Ninh Binh City and Tam Coc and from Tam Coc to Hoa Lu.
The paths take you through villages and alongside rice paddies and lakes, with the ever present karst formations in the background. Make sure you get a good map, but bear in mind this may not help you and you may need to resort to asking passers-by or using GPS.
Bike Tour to Ninh Binh, Sitting on a boat en route Tam Coc or Trang An is part of Zonitrip _Adventure tour & off the beaten track in Northern Vietnam trip that costs $119 per person and operates from September-May. Ph +84 1689927861 or see http://zonitrip.com/package/vietnam-bike-tour-tam-coc-ninh-binh/