Ninh Binh was not on my original plan when I was planning my Vietnam trip. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know it existed until I arrived in Vietnam. That said, the place packed quite a punch for nature lovers and proved to be a good spot to avoid the chaotic Hanoi.
From marveling at the rock formations around Tam Coc river to climbing the Bich Dong pagoda, you can traverse all around by a motorbike, a preferred mode of transportation any where in Vietnam. This was the first time I rode a motorbike in Vietnam, and I got to say, I was addicted to it. There is nothing like riding a motorbike in Vietnam.
Day 9: Train from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh
I woke up super early at 5 am as I waited for a public bus to Dong Hoi in front of my hostel. At times, there were minibuses that claimed to be the local bus but the security guard at the hostel warded them away and put me on the right bus.
I arrived at the bus station at 7AM and as I tried to find my way to the train station, I was offered a ride to the station by a local electronics store owner nearby. I was so surprised how kind the locals in the area were. Everyone was trying to help me out without expecting anything back.
This random act of kindness is not something you hear about Vietnam but I assured you, it existed here.
I hopped on a train at 9 15AM and I was off to Ninh Binh. On the 10 hours train ride, I met Julia and Jannis, students from Germany and we decided to stick together for the rest of the trip in Ninh Binh. We found a nice little hotel near the train station where we could rent a motorbike for a cheap fee. It was perfect for what we had planned for tomorrow.
Day 10: Tam Coc, Mua Cave and Bich Dong Pagoda
We started our day early, got our motorbikes and drove off the get some supply for the hike we were planning to do. Five minutes in, at the intersection, I crashed my bike as I was trying to give way to another motorcycle. It was the weight of the bike and the brakes that spun my bike and crashed. Fortunately, I did not harm anyone including myself so all was good.
Our first stop was Mua Cave. A place that allowed us to see the Tam Coc river from the top instead of taking the normal route by boat along the river. It took us a couple of turns to get here. Google Map proved to be useless here and we ended up asking the locals along the way. We met a teacher who led us to the place without expecting anything back from us. Again, places like this are where the Vietnamese shines.
As we rode our bikes along the misty road, we can't help but imagining Chinese dragons living in one of these valleys.
Any where there is an unoccupied area, the Vietnamese turned them into a rice field.
As we approached the way up, we wonder if the stairs would take us to heaven.
After we paid our entrance fee, we walked through a little park that would be perfect for a picnic place if it wasn't raining.
Rain started to pour down on us. The storm must have followed me from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh. That seems to happen a lot around me. I guess I'm the cloud magnet.
The hike was an easy walk up stone stairs. It took us 15 minutes to climb to the top and the view was as stunning as I had hoped it would be even on rainy days. Do beware though. The stairs get quite slippery when it rains.
This is the Tam Coc river from the top. Stunning isn't it? Very well worth the hike.
Here was Julia marveling at the landscape around Tam Coc.
And ofcourse, that was me at the same spot. :)
The temple on the top was not in a good shape but I couldn't complain. The view made up for it.
You may wonder why the place is called Mua Cave but instead it was a mountain. The cave was at the bottom near where the hike began.
The rain didn't seem to stop so we put on our ridiculous rain jackets and rode off to the Tam Coc river to have our lunch.
It wasn't much of a view but still, it was pretty cool.
We hid from the rain for several hours and still it did not stop. Riding a motorbike was already dangerous in Vietnam, imagine doing it in the rain..
We decided to go through with it and drove to our last stop of the day, the Bich Dong Pagado.
The pagoda itself was built on a cave and it was quite a sight to behold. We wanted to hike to the top but because it rained all day that day, we were unable to conitnue with out incapable shoes through mud.
We drove back to our hotel, soaked and exhausted. We ended our day in Ninh Binh and went separate ways in the morning.
Day 11: Off to Hanoi and Sapa
Jannis and Julia were staying another day in Ninh Binh with a homestay (which I heard was quite an experience) and I continued up north toward Hanoi to my last destination, Sapa. Stay tuned as I traverse the land of the infinite rice terraces with a bike and got scammed by an illegal motorbike dealer. It was a hell of a ride.
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