Ending our memorable 2 Days 1 Night exploration of the UNESCO Heritage Site of Vietnam : Halong Bay, we returned to Hanoi Boutique Hotel for 1 night stopover before we head off for our next exciting adventure. The warm feeling as we step into the hotel to be warmly welcome back by the associate of the hotel….
Our next adventure is another 2 Days 1 Night stay. This time it is an Eco-Tour is organised Amira Travel through Hanoi Boutique Hotel. Our journey started as early as 730 hrs when we were picked up by our friendly guide, Mit.
Ninh Bihn, the capital city of Ninh Binh Province is famous for beautiful scenery around the village of Tam Coc. A beautiful countryside, it is said to be a hidden gem of Vietnam as Ninh Bihn is not very popularly known in comparison to places like Sapa and Halong Bay.
The journey to Ninh Bihn takes about 3 hours with 1 stop in Dong Van, Ha Nam province from Hanoi. It was indeed a comfortable ride as our private transfer were very cosy and big.
Our first stop upon arrival is the exploration of Hoa Lu (華閭), the ancient capital of Dinh and King Le. Once the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries, it is now a beautiful flat valley between small but steep limestone mountains that created virtually impenetrable barriers to human traffic. Even today, many of the mountains are accessible only to the mountain goats that roam the area.
We were lucky as we decided to head out our journey early. When we arrived in Hoa Lu, the area is still quiet and peaceful giving us the opportunity to explore the area pretty much alone without the influx of other tourists.
We head into the gateway to Emperor Đinh Tiên Hoàng Temple, the royal temple that houses a statue of Emperor Dinh Bo Linh and his sons as well as the royal temple of the early Le Dynasty.
Mit, our guide holding the riffle while explaining to us the history of the place 🙂
Our friendly guide, Mit actually took time to share the history of Hao Lu and the reign of King Dihn and King Le as we were exploring the beautiful area. There is also a buffalo ride available for anyone that is interested.
Completing our exploration of the ancient city of Hao Lu, we head to Tam Coc where we explored the beautiful scenic area on a small boat. We were very privilege as we enjoyed 2 person to a boat that were rowed by both feet and hands (alternating between).
Our boat ride along Halong Bay on Land begins at Pier Van Lam along Ngo Dong River heading towards the natural park where we will go through caves, pagoda by the riverside and also the livelihood surrounding the beautiful and serene nature.
Tam Coc, means 3 caves is a beautiful place that elapses between rice paddies and the Ngo Dong River with beautiful karstic rock formations and limestone caves. These beautiful rock formations, caves, water and scenic landscape is what made Tam Coc known as the Halong Bay on Land.
The 3 Caves of Tam Coc are Hang Ca Cave, Hang Giua Cave and Hang Chateau Cave which were formed by erosion of the rio on the rocks. It is said that these caves have no group with the river runs through the interior of the caves.
Hang Ca Cave, the largest and first cave is 127 metes long with entry of 20 meters wide, a height of 2 meters. The roofs of is a reminiscent of a desert planet surface.
Hang Giua Cave, the second cave, also known as Hang Hai has the length of 70 meters with multitude of stalactites on the roofs.
Hang Cuoi Cave, also known as Hang Ba is the third and final cave. Smallest among the 3 caves, this one is only 45 meters in length.
During the turnaround, we were stopped in for a while to let the ‘river snacks boat’ approach us in encouraging us to buy some of their overpriced items. They even encourage us to buy drinks for the ‘boat rowers’ of which we politely turned down. I rather give these money to the ‘boat rowers’ in the form of tips. We also had an irritating boat following us wanting to take our photos which we understand are chargeable at a super high price at the end of the trip which we also turn down.
We ended our 2 hour boat ride along Halong Bay on Land with our stop directly at the pier of the home stay for the night. Upon arrival, we not only were greeted by our friendly guide, Mit but with our Host for the night, Hung Family as well. What a warm welcome indeed. And upon arrival to our room, we were greeted with all our bags that were left in the private van earlier already placed in our rooms. Truly impressive.
After checking in, we were served with yummy home-cooked lunch by the Hung Family. And we also get to sample the local speciality of Ninh Bihn, Mountain goat (de nui) meat that was grilled to perfection. A truly satisfying lunch.
Our friendly lady host showing us how the flavourful Vietnamese Coffee is prepared
Our original tour plan contains some cycling. Unfortunately, only 1 person in our party is able to cycle so after lunch, we decided to explore the beautiful area on foot. The beautiful limestone mountains and rice paddy fields are indeed a beautiful sight.
There is also a temple along the way. So we stop briefly to explore it.
We even had the opportunity to see a villager catching snails along the way…..
Beautiful and memorable exploration of the area, we returned to our home-stay to be welcomed for a relaxing time with foot massage in the herbal water by the local.
After the foot massage, we had sometime for our own leisure before another yummy dinner prepared by the Hung Family.
After dinner, we decided to explore the small town of Ninh Bihn on our own. Mit, our guide had earlier in the day showed us the walkway to the town. So we decided to continue our shopping at the local store on our own. The local products sold in the small town of Ninh Bihn were very reasonably priced. So we had a great time shopping.
Day 2 started bright and early with a delicious breakfast prepared by the Hung Family. And for coffee lovers like myself, a cup of Vietnamese coffee is a great way to start the day amidst the beautiful nature surrounding.
After our hearty breakfast, we head back to our private van for the 5 minutes ride to our exploration of the day. What was suppose to be an eco-tour with us biking around, our guide had to arranged for the van to send us after discovering the day before that most of us are not able to cycle…. hehehe….
The bicycles that were prepared for us initially in front of the homestay when we arrived on Day 1
Our morning exploration is to Mua Cave, located in the Dau Khe Ha hamlet. A must-see attractions of Ninh Binh, Mua Cave consists of 500 steps up to the peak. To get there, please ensure that you are properly equipped with a good trekking shoes as the steps may be a little steep in some areas upwards.
Constructed following the model of ‘Great Wall’ in China, it the trek up are a little tough with many uneven limestone steps especially towards the top point. However, the efforts would be greatly rewarded with the impressive panoramic view of Tam Coc, Trang An and Ninh Binh city.
At the foot of the area before our climb, we did a quick exploration of Tiger Cave.
For those whom are interested in staying overnight, Hang Mua Eco-Lodge are available.
After the tiring climb up Mua Cave, we head back to our homestay where were do our final packing and check out. We ended our memorable 2 Days 1 Night exploration of Ninh Bihn with another delicious home-cook lunch by the Hung Family. Oh did I mentioned that all their vegetables are organically grown in front of the home. So each meals were cooked with love from freshly harvested vegetables from the ‘farm’. It is so delicious to the extend that a non-french fried lovers like me, enjoyed the plate of home-made french fries that was served.
Finally it is time to bid goodbye to our hospitable host, the Hung Family. A memorable stay with fantastic service, we hope to be back again one day. A big Thank You to the Hung Family and our friendly guide, Mit for a memorable stay.
We head back to Hanoi Boutique Hotel for our final night before we head home the next day. Strategically located in Hanoi Old Quarter we were privileged to be able to explore the night market which are only available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening. We also used the opportunity to complete our coffee beans shopping. The area has great selections of coffee shops. A perfect way to end our memorable holiday exploring Northern Vietnam.
Our memorable 2 days 1 night Eco-Tour of Ninh Bihn is arranged by the helpful and friendly team at Hanoi Boutique Hotel and Amira Travel.
Missed the previous post on our Northern Vietnam Adventure? There are available as below: