Surprising, Friendly and Beautiful Ninh Binh - Vietnam
The town of Ninh Binh (pronounced Ning Bing) is a surprise package for visitors to Vietnam.
Beautiful scenery, flat open rice paddies in every shade of green imaginable are a treat to see and the locals are extremely welcoming to tourists.
As its just four hours south of Hanoi, you can go there for a day trip, or better still stop a few days.
This region is truly quintessential Vietnam. It is referred to as the Halong Bay on land because of its extensive waterways and towering craggy limestone hills surrounding the flat plains planted in that staple - rice. It is picture perfect.
The surrounding rural area has more appeal than the town itself where welding and pipe supply shops mix uneasily with cell-phone, shoe and wedding dress retailers! Even though English is not widely spoken, the locals tried very hard to assist me and it always surprises me much can be communicated through gesture and a smile. Although sometimes, the outcome is funny - like when I wanted to buy some chocolate and was offered washing powder.
I enjoyed my interactions with the locals here. In a general store, once the lady behind the counter saw my camera she begged me to take her photo. In a country where people often refuse a photographer, I found this refreshing. Once back on the street parents disgorged from their homes and held up their babies me to photograph. It was very touching.
This is a wonderful area to stay awhile and accommodation and food is cheap. I stayed at the Hotel Thanh Thuy http://hotelthanhthuy.com for USD17. My room was large, air conditioned, extremely clean, own bathroom and balcony and the price included breakfast. There are cheaper rooms and it’s worth negotiating but as the room sizes and quality vary, do ask to see a few rooms before deciding. Meals were cheap here at the Hotel Thanh Thuy – for dinner and a cold beer I spent less than 3USD. The town centre has limited eating options so most tourists eat where they stay and the quality and price of the food is quite attractive. The hosts were very hospitable and organize everything for guests.
Sharing one of the three huge dining tables was a treat. Meal times became most companionable, as we all chatted about trips gone by and trips dreamed of. The travellers who stay here are tourists who like to get off the beaten track and they do all manner of interesting trips of all kinds. I felt inspired listening to them.
There are three boat trips easily reached when you stay in the the town centre, Tam Coc Caves (famous for helmspeople rowing with their feet), the breathtakingly beautiful Van Long Reserve and Kengha Boat Village. I did all three but this hub is getting too large so I have written about them in a separate hubpages article.
I will definitely include a repeat visit to Ninh Binh when I return to northern Vietnam. A return trip to Van Long Reserve will also be at the top of my list along with riding through the countryside on a motor bike and taking time to just walk through rice paddies listening to the soft swish of growing rice are enduring memories.
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