Ninh Binh, Vietnam: Is it Worth it?

Ninh Binh is in Northern Vietnam, about two hours south of Hanoi. Tall, plunging limestone cliffs bulging out of the ground like natural skyscrapers.

So, is it worth it to pay a visit? Uhhh, HELL THE F YES IT IS!! Def one of my top three favorite places in Vietnam. This place is absolutely breathtaking. Now, Ninh Binh is the general area/city where the bus will drop you off. But every time I say Ninh Binh, I'm simultaneously talking about Tam Coc, a small mountain province neighboring the city center (literally within a couple miles).

I did Ninh Binh/Tam Coc in two days which I think is a good amount of time to get a taste. I had a strict time sensitive itinerary to see all of Vietnam before my Visa expired, so I had to keep exploring the country; but I could easily chill in Ninh Binh up to a week; lounging, biking, relaxing, just enjoying the scenery with no real itinerary. 

DAY 1:

I arrived to Ninh Binh around 4am on an 11-hour night bus from Hoi An. Luckily there was a cheap (actually very clean) hostel right by the bus stop so I got to continue my sleep until a decent hour. Other times it’s not so lucky. Which means, I am trying to bargain a deal with a taxi to bring me to my hostel that I booked for the next day only to be told check-in isn’t until 2pm, which leaves me homeless and sleeping (but not sleeping) on a bench waiting for the dreaded eight hours to go by. Ahh, the life of a backpacker.

Anywho, back to Ninh Binh & a decent wake up time. I headed to Tam Coc Homestay around 10am and luckily, I was able to check-in early. WHOOO!! As we pulled up to the homestay, my mouth dropped. The backdrop was amazing. It was so nice to be away from the city and in the real country. For $6/night, I could definitely get used to this.

Tam Coc Homestay

Tam Coc Homestay

I dropped my things off, ate breakfast, and relaxed a bit. I usually take the day I bus or fly in as a rest day. Hey, it can be really exhausting. 2pm hit and I still had half the day left so I looked up something to do close by. Hang Mua it is! A quick 10-minute bike ride behind my homestay was Hang Mua. Better known as 1,000 steps to the top. It cost $5 for a ticket to go up. TIP: As you ride up the dirt road, there's a few guys that wave you down to park your bike and pay $0.44usd, don't! Keep biking until you get to the end (just a few more meters up, where the ticket counter is), and there's a regular FREE parking lot. A quick 20-minute natural stair master to the most epic view I have ever laid eyes on. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

After Hang Mua, I biked around the area aimlessly. This place doeeeee.

Day 2:

I had planned to do the Tam Coc Boat Ride first thing in the morning but thought hell, I’ll just go in the afternoon. No biggie. Wrong. Everything was gorgeous as ever, just hot af (I went in Mid-April btw). I was melting in that mid-day sun with no shade to cover the UV. It would have been so nice and dandy to cruise the river with a nice cool morning breeze. Highly recommend the boat ride, but I also highly recommend to get your ass up and go well before noon.

When I got the the boat ticket office, the lady said $12 since I was a party of one. Max number of people on a boat is three, so I found two people and we all shared a boat so my ticket cost went down to $9 (hey, every dollar counts! Considering the average meal here in Vietnam is $1-2, that’s huge savings brah)!

The boat ride was a lot longer than I expected, nearly one hour. It was beautiful, everything I wished it would be. It’s always hard to spend money on a tour (bc i hate tours) but this is one that I am glad I did. At the end of the ride, the boat rower kindly asked for a tip so we each gave 20,000VND (about $1 each, which is more than enough; considering Vietnam is a non-tipping country).

After a quick bite to eat, it was barely 2pm and I still had half the day left. Once again, I cruised around on my bicycle. Basically all you really need to do in Ninh Binh is bike around, it’s that gorgeous!

Ninh Binh is the place to be if you want to see amazing landscape & do some leisurely activities that costs zero dollars (bike around the rice paddies while admiring the beautiful scenery). It’s that simple. Why can’t life always be this easy?

TOTAL COST SUMMARY:

DAY 1: $20
$6 homestay (shared room)
$0 Free bicycle rental from homestay
$0 breakfast included
$3 lunch
$6 dinner
$5 hang mua

DAY 2: $24
$6 homestay (shared room)
$0 Free bicycle rental from homestay
$0 breakfast included
$5 lunch
$3 dinner
$10 boat

XOXO MEL