Day trip from Hanoi to Ninh Binh

There are multiple options to venture out of Hanoi. I ruled out Halong Bay because it seems to be a bit too touristic, rushed and dirty, if you want to accomplish it in one day. I left Halong Bay for another time as I wanted to have a relaxed cruise trip instead. Sa Pa was another option but I had limited time as it is quite difficult to do it in one day; usually the trips last more than a day at least. Additionally, places like Sa Pa are also there in my region and hence it did not fascinate me much. Hence, I settled to make a day trip from Hanoi to Ninh Binh and explore Hoa Lu, Tam Coc and Mua Cave. You can book the tour via GetYourGuide for about 40 Euros. It also includes a bicycle ride, boat ride, the Non La hat and a traditional Vietnamese lunch; tips excluded. I would say this was a pretty good deal. I have listed out some trips from Hanoi at the end of this blog post.

At about 7:30 AM in the morning, our guide picked us up from our hotel located at the Old Quarter area. We traveled around 100 km to the south to Hoa Lu district for about 2 hours with a short break in between to have food or use the restroom; or in Vietnam as they say, happy room.

Dinh King and Le King Temple

Hoa Lu is supposed to be the ancient capital of Vietnam. Here, one can visit the ancient temples such as Dinh King Temple and Le King Temple. The temples are from 10th century belonging to two warrior kings in the region. You can find a lot of scriptures in Mandarin here as it is supposed to date back to events from the Chinese history as well, as told by the people there.

Dinh King and Le King Temple

I did read online that one is supposed to maintain a dress code here but it was not clear what exactly. I wore my shorts as it was too hot but I carried my jeans in a bag just to be on the safer side. Thankfully, I did not have to wear them in that scorching heat. That’s me wearing shorts, a t-shirt from Anaconda and a Non La hat.

Non La Hat

Take bicycle

After spending close to an hour, we went to a place to get our bicycles. We were now riding the bicycle in the Tam Coc area around the countryside of Ninh Binh province. The ride around the lakes and mountains lasted almost 30-40 minutes before everyone headed back to the same point for lunch. One can choose to opt out of this but I completely recommend it. Clicking pictures while riding the bicycle can be a challenge but not impossible. The roads are not really roads but rather paths carved out of some field. They can have ups and downs and lots of puddles.

Bicycle Ride in Tam Coc area

Have Vietnamese Lunch

While this was one thing I was looking forward to, this was easily one of the most disappointing one. I had good Vietnamese food almost everywhere but this one just does not make the cut. The food was not entirely Vietnamese; there were other South East Asian and Western dishes as well. The few Vietnamese dishes that they had were average as well. The spring rolls, the Pho, the noodles; everything was average. One good thing I liked about them was that they charged you for wasting every few grams or so. May be this is something that needs to be done worldwide. After the meal, we had a short tea time outside the restaurant.

Vietnamese Lunch

Boat ride along Ngo Dong river

From the lunch place, we went to another point to have a boat ride along Ngo Dong river. You have a person in charge of the boat accompanied by another person from the tour. The boat ride is really beautiful and perhaps my favorite part of the tour.

Boat ride in Ngo Dong river

After a point, you can see the floating market in middle of nowhere where you can buy some fruits, vegetables, water or even better, beer.

Ngo Dong River Floating Market

I just bought a beer, laid back and soaked into the beautiful landscape for about 90 minutes. I always wanted to have beer on my own boat back in Munich; may be some day this dream comes true. A happy picture of myself with beer on the boat; pure bliss!

Beer, boat and myself

I struck a conversation with lady in charge of my boat. She said how she had to do this for about 5-6 times a day because each trip takes around 90 minutes. She also rows the boat mostly with her feet. She is paid a few thousand Vietnamese Dongs for this and hence she heavily relies on tips from tourists. She requested me to tip her 1 USD and that is when I realized how valuable 1 USD is for her. I gave her 2 USD instead and she gladly told me how she is going to have a nice lunch the next day. Moments like these make you happy as well.

Lady pedalling the boat

Hike up Mua Cave

This was the last part of our tour. Not everyone hikes up till the last point because it is about 600 steps and they can be quite steep. You may need good shoes; I was not aware of this as I was wearing my sandals. Get some energy drink or water with you; very likely you will need it. There is another shorter hike which I skipped because I wanted to get to the highest possible point. While hiking to the highest point, you can get a view to the shrine which is the shorter end of the hike; looks magnificent.

Mua Cave Shorter Hike

You get a panaromic view of the Tam Coc area; the area where we had our wonderful boat ride along the Ngo Dong river. I do not consider myself a hiking person but if I enjoyed this hike, so will my friends back in Munich. It was completely worth it.

Panaromic View of Mua Cave

Around 5 PM, were done with our tour and started heading back to Hanoi. Due to the maddening traffic, it took a little longer than it took in the morning. Overall, this trip took around 12 hours with lots of activities and things to see and experience.

Alternative trips from Hanoi

Here is a list of alternative trips from Hanoi.

Ninh Binh Province

  1. Hoa Lu, Tam Coc, Mua Cave w/ Amazing View- All Inclusive
  2. Full Day Hoa Lu & Tam Coc: Small Group Tour & Buffet Lunch
  3. Full-Day Trang An, Hoa Lu & Mua Cave Tour with Lunch

Halong Bay

  1. Halong Day Tour: Islands, Caves, Kayak with Dragonfly Cruise
  2. Halong Bay 2-Day, 1-Night Luxury 4-Star Cruise with Transfer
  3. Halong Luxury Full Day Trip – Limousine Van & Expressway
  4. From Hanoi: 2-Day & 1 Night Halong Bay Tour

Sa Pa

  1. Sapa: 3-Day Medium Trek and Bus Trip from Hanoi
  2. From Hanoi: 2-Day Spectacular Sapa Trekking and Bus Tour

Ankur Sinha

Data Science, Running, Blogging, Cooking, Traveling, Writing