I’m slightly late with my post as I’ve been a busy bee. I’ve visited Ninh Binh, Phong Nha and I am currently in what used to be the capital of Vitenam, Hue. I’ll be writing separate posts for each of the adventures, so for now ladies and gentleman I shall tell you all about the wonders of Ninh Binh.
Ninh Binh is located in the Red River Delta of Northern Vietnam. As a city is fairly small, with few foreigners, however the attractions themselves are extremely busy.
My ritual on arrival in any place is to firstly search what to do and then the best places to eat. Shock my mind goes to my stomach. So my first stop was a restaurant called Trung Tuyet, which was number one on TripAdvisor. And I could understand why, the food was delicious but cheap, the portions were massive and the family who run the restaurant were lovely. In total I ended up visiting on four separate occasions.
Full of omelette and Vietnamese coffee, I set off on my merry way. Most people hire scooters or pedal bikes, as generally everything is fairly far away, however I love walking so hike instead. The benefit is it allows me to see a lot more of Vietnam outside the tourist areas, but it does also have its downfalls.
I feel like I’ve had a different experience with the Vietnamese to other backpackers. People comment on how lovely they are, however for me, it’s the minority who have been nice. I’m trying not to take it personally and to rather look at the facts – I’m a very white girl travelling alone. However Ninh Binh was one of the worst places for me.
Knowing it was going to rain on the Friday I opted to wear shorts as I thought my legs would dry quicker. They weren’t short shorts, just slightly above the knees, however I got heckled and shouted at within the first 20 minutes of my walk. It go so bad, I ended up going back to the hostel to change.
Feeling deflated but back on my 6.8km walk to the Mua Caves, I bumped into two sweet Swiss girls, one of which I had met in the dorm that morning. We ended up exploring the mountain and lone cave together…The rest of the day was fairly chilled, we walked back, grabbed lunch and then I watched back to back episodes of Suits. One thing I’ve learnt is you can’t do everything and you need days or afternoons to relax, otherwise you’ll end up running yourself into the ground. Not that I’ve had many, but I do try!
Saturday 25th February
Similar to every other day, I woke up early on the Saturday. Being in an eight person dorm doesn’t really help the whole sleeping thing.
However as it was my last day in Ninh Binh I needed to do as much as possible. I decided to take the plunge and do the 9.4km walk to the scenic area of Truang An. The walk there was similar to the day before, people nudging each other to stare and others shout/heckling at me, however I also had kids in the villages running out of their houses to say hi. In the end, this did outweigh the negativity 😊. I finally arrived at Truang An and honestly nearly left. This was by far the most tourist filled place I had seen in Vietnam. But you can’t knock it until you try it (I was also tired and miles away from anywhere else).
The entrance was similar to Disneyland. You buy your ticket, then queue to get on a boat. Different to Disney though, it’s a free for all when you get through the gates. People were pushing/shoving and flagging down boats from all angles. I stood behind two Spanish couples and ended up jumping on with them. Not that it lasted long before I was taken off as there ‘too many people’. Seems strange as most boats had between 6-10 people on, but five with me on was too much 🤔.
It worked out for the better as my new boat only had an older Canadian couple. The next two hours were spent floating along the river and taking in the sights. I touched down on land around 12pm. I was feeling extremely tired so was contemplating heading back to the hostel. However after a 10 minute talking to, I instead took the 7.6km walk from Truang An to Tam Coc. I spent most of the journey cursing myself for making the decision and on arrival, despite the fact it was beautiful, it was a smaller version of Truang An 🙈. I didn’t want to go on another boat ride, so I grabbed lunch at a Vegan place (pah) and then walked 1 hour and 40 mins back to the hostel. That was my last bit of exploring done. Overall, I wouldn’t say Ninh Binh was my favourite place. I’m sure the fact the weather was poor and I had just left Amber and Erika didn’t help the situation, however it’s still not somewhere I’d go back. It feels almost like a man made tourist destination. Interestingly the Canadian guy who was on my boat in Truang An thought the river was man made – something I need to look further into 🤔.
The evening was interesting as I had to take a sleeper bus to Phong Nha at 9pm. The fear kicked in before boarding, however surprisingly the journey started off pleasantly. That was until the bus stopped, the guy from my hostel got on, took me off the bus and scootered me back to the hostel. Turns out I was on the wrong bus, good times.
I was finally on the correct bus and ended up sleeping a few hours before I was dumped in Phong Nha at 4.30am. I headed to my hostel hoping there would be a sofa for me to sleep on in reception, but no all taken. I instead sat finishing my last blog post and waiting anxiously for breakfast to start.
Don’t worry it gets A LOT better in Phong Nha 😊. Until then…
Jessica Storm ✌️