Ninh Bình is a small city in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam; it is the capital of Ninh Bình Province. Ninh Bình Province is located in northern Vietnam comprising 48 square kilometres. It takes 2 hours by bus from Hanoi and the wise choice is a private luxury van which strikes a balance between being affordable, travelling with others but not with crowds of 30 or more people. The area is described as the Halong Bay on land with its rice fields and limestone cliffs covering the area.
On this adventure the focus was on Tam Coc, about 6 km south of Ninh Binh city, in the middle of the rice fields and lime peaks. The main attraction of Tam Coc is the boat ride between the cliffs of the river and through 3 tunnels dug by the river through the peaks. For around USD$20USD two people can ride on one of boats and watch a local padle with either their feet or hands to soak up one of Vietnam’s most spectacular sights.
As you gently cruise along the river you will see a mixture of waterside hotels, tall cliffs, lush forest, rice fields, local farmers, abandoned houses and more. The lush forestry against the limestone cliffs is a photographer’s dream.
Along the way beware of the floating drink sellers most will ask if you would like to buy a drink for the rower. This is usually sold back immediately for half price or less. Rowers are paid a minimum wage and have the right to a few tours a week only, so selling local goods or asking for a tip is the norm.
The other historical place to visit is Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, it served as the capital of Vietnam until 1010, this royal city is about 15 km from Ninh Binh and Tam Coc. What greets you is beautiful archways and the temples of Dinh Tien Hoang, Nhat Tru Temple and Le Dai Hanh.
The area around Tam Coc is beautiful and is a great escape from the bustle of Hanoi’s city streets. You’d probably best enjoy it from the back of a motorbike or by bicycle. There are other places to visit around Tam Coc itself; Bich Dong Pagoda, 3 km after the Tam Coc Pier, built on one of the cliff and which provides incredible views and Tai Vi Temple, accessible via the small road on the right of the pier. Hang Mua Peak is one of the most spectacular sites to visit around Tam Coc just over 400 steps bring you to the tip of the peak from which you have a most spectacular 360° view of the entire region.