Ninh Binh – Normal town in the country, it does not have much actually anything to see in it unless you are curious how a non tourist destination looks like and functions in Vietnam. However it has two interesting point of interests around it.
About 10km from Ninh Binh, I like to call this Halong Bay on land. It is nothing but limestone formations surrounded with a lake / marshy land. To see them you will have to undertake boat ride with limitation of two people on a boat. The scenery is nice and quiet. I particularly liked the undergrowth in water, it adds to the beauty.
Bich Dong Pagoda:
About two kilometers north of Tam Coc is the cave pagoda. Carved mainly from the stone of the hill, it offers good views of countryside.
Chua Bai Dinh
Located about 11km from Ninh Bing in opposite direction of Tam Coc, is a temple containing 500 statues of enlightened Buddha leading 10m tall 100 tone bronze statue. If desired, it can be covered on the way to Cuc Phuong National Park.
Cuc Phuong National Park:
Located about 45km west of Ninh Binh, it has caves of pre-historic man dating 10,000 – 12,000 years ago. You have an option of staying in the park also. Basic rooms have been built with no aircon and irregular electricity supply. While here you can do few things:
Endangered Primate Rescue Center:
Endangered species when caught from their non natural habitat are brought here, bread here and allowed to customize with the natural habitat. Once customized, they are dropped in the jungle. Here you can find gibbons, langurs, and loris.
Turtle Conservation Center:
It has nice small museum explaining different species and their peculiarities and needs. It also keeps small amount of turtles for tourist to see and recognize them basis what they have read.
1,000 year old tree:
Probably one of the two main attractions of this place. Located deep inside the park, trekking trail starts from the café / restaurant center. Tree is almost at the mid-point of circular loop with each half taking ~30mins to trek. Surface is muddy but not slippery. Trekking shoes or even normal shoes with decent grip should be worn.
Caves of Pre Historic Man:
Nearly in the middle on café / restaurant and entry gate, there is a cave where remains of pre-historic men have been found. It is a large cave, but home to bats now. Do not forget to bring a torch to see the cave beyond entry point.
Staying in Ninh Binh:
There are plenty of hotels in Ninh Binh but not hostels. Being a small town, good room can be taken for under $10. However, staying at Tam Coc can be explored if you wish to stay in small / unpopulated area.
Food and Eating:
Few restaurants are available offering Vietnamese cuisine / fast food. Enough eating places are available for staying in Ning Binh for a night or two
Scooter can be easily hired in Ninh Binh. Taxis are easily available in both Ninh Binh and Tam Coc.
Connectivity with other Cities:
You can reach Ninh Binh or leave Ninh Binh by train or by road. Ninh Binh does not have an airport.