Ninh Binh

While teaching in Hanoi, we usually had weekends free. On our first of these we traveled southeast to Ninh Binh. We hopped on a minibus headed out of Hanoi and then sat on it for about 2 hours waiting at the bus station for more passengers. Once we finally departed the bus station the trip was less than two hours on flat roads with no curves. Despite this, another passenger still got motion sickness. For cleanup, the bus stopped while someone grabbed handfuls of dirt from a roadside construction site and covered the offending mess. Then the whole pile was pushed out the door of the bus. Nice and easy.

approaching a cave

When we reached Ninh Binh we went on a river tour. The Sao Khe river flows through rice paddies, limestone karst mountains, and caves through these mountains. There are two main places to go on these tours; Tam Coc and Trang An. We chose Trang An in order to see more caves, avoid some tourists and some tourist traps. There were still plenty of tourists, but no one hassled us to buy anything, and for that we were thankful.

row boats line the shore at Trang An

The boat for the tour holds four passengers plus the rower. The tour lasts 2-3 hours and stops several times at temples along the way. The river was lined with lotus blossoms and incredible scenery around each bend.

above the temple gate

in front of the temple

Lotus blossoms


Through rice paddies

After the boat tour we headed to nearby Mua cave. Through rice paddies, up a series of stone stairs, and we arrived at a small temple at the top of a peak. While catching my breath, there were panoramic views in almost every direction. To one side we could look back towards Ninh Binh town (through some lingering smog) while on the other was a stretch of the river upstream from where we had just toured.

Up a series of stone stairs

To a view back on where had just traveled

And a beautiful view beyond, in the other direction

It was a great day, but the time had come to pack our things and catch a bus back to Hanoi for another week of teaching.

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4 thoughts on “Ninh Binh”

  1. Wow, I bet living in Hanoi is interesting! I was a teacher in China just before coming here, and even after being in China, Hanoi overwhelmed me more than expected! I’m in Ninh Binh right now, hoping to get the views shown in your pictures. To see these, are you required to take the boat ride? Or can I do my own thing walking and motorbiking and still see them? Hoping for few tourists so that I can whip the drone out! and not get in trouble lol

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    1. I know Hanoi can be a lot, but it really grew on me. Getting to live there for longer than just a week or two and outside the main tourist areas was the key for me.
      As for Ninh Binh, it depends on which views you’re looking for. If it’s the cave and temple pictures from the post, those are from the row boat at Trang An. There’s a road alongside the river at Trang An for a short distance, but then (as far as I could tell then or by looking at a map now) I believe there’s not much – if any – road access beyond that. If it’s the more panoramic pictures of karst peaks and rice paddies, that’s totally doable by motorbike (or bicycle) from Ninh Binh town. I highly recommend it!! You’ll want to head to Mua Cave, take the road past Mua Cave Ecolodge and it dead ends into the parking lot of the temple/park. I can’t remember the exact price, but I seem to recall it being more than I would’ve expected. The views were totally worth it. Other than a few other tourists, there weren’t many folks around. If you’ve got a day, cruise around the whole area out there. It’s really pretty. Have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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