We had a short, yet eventful, two day stay in Ninh Binh after visiting Sapa. Ninh Binh is an area about 2 hours south of Hanoi, and is less well known among foreign tourists than both Halong Bay and Sapa. In fact, we hadn’t heard of it either until we had a fortuitous encounter with a couple of folks in Hong Kong. While hiking up to Victoria’s Peak, we met two guys from Colombia and one of them (who had been living in Vietnam for the past few months) told us that his favorite place in the country is Ninh Binh and described it as “Halong Bay on land”. With such an endorsement (and some internet research), we decided to check it out.
At that point, we had been braving the Vietnam heat for almost two weeks and had managed to avoid any major sunburns… which changed very quickly in Ninh Binh when we spent a full day touring on a motor bike. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any good photos to show for this, but you might notice our use of hats and shirts with sleeves increases dramatically in future posts.)
We upgraded from our tandem bike in Xi’An to a full on motor bike in Ninh Binh (similar to a motorcycle, but not as big - I’m sure there are more technical ways to differentiate them, but that’s the main difference I can spot). Like the tandem bike, the motor bike was slightly terrifying, but for different reasons. I didn’t feel like we were constantly going to fall over (nor did I drive the bike at any point - Sid had some experience, so I left the driving to him), but it was a little scary traveling 40-50km/hr on the highway with cars, buses, other motor bikes, regular bikes, people, and a variety of animals to dodge (I think our biggest almost incident happened when we were going around a corner and a cow wandered out onto the road in front of us…luckily, we swerved a bit and crisis averted). Even with a bit of inherent danger, the motor bike was pretty cool and it was by far the most effective way for us to navigate Ninh Binh in a day.
Aside from driving around on the motor bike, we did some hiking and took a boat tour to explore. In my opinion, Ninh Binh may be even more beautiful than Halong Bay (though the experience on the boat in Halong was awesome). Here are a few pictures we took along the way:
During our boat ride, we toured three caves. One was super long and took about half an hour to row through, but the others were a bit shorter. This is a time lapse video I recorded of one of the shorter caves while paddling through (note how low the ceilings are!)
After Ninh Binh, we were off to our final Vietnam destination - Hoi An! Final Vietnam post coming soon!