Home > Vietnam > Ninh Binh – like a ring donut.

Ninh Binh – like a ring donut.

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

To continue our journey, we took what appeared to be the only option of a transfer via Haiphong to Ninh Binh. The bus, boat, bus and another bus combination took 7 hours and I am still convinced all the travel companies lied to us and ripped us off, but I am just about getting over it. The last bus certainly made for a memorable trip on public transport, with all the bags thrown on the roof and an interior designed for the residents of Lilliput.



The bus designers must only have used a small child for their anthropometric data, because there was no way a normal adult could fit in the seats. I had to sit diagonally for the whole journey, fighting off requests for me to budge up, whilst poor granny on the back row had to squash up to get 2 Vietnamese onto a single seat, all whilst having her knees round her ears because the seat was flush with the floor!

When we told a Vietnamese lady (now living in London and back on holiday) that we had taken public transport, she burst out laughing – she had never taken a bus in Vietnam in her life – way too dangerous! So whilst a dreadful journey, it was at least memorable.

The purpose of going to Ninh Binh was to get out. The countryside around the town is legendary. We created our own itinerary, hired a driver and set off for a mad busy day. First Tam Coc, then a pagoda, then a hilltop, then a pagoda and an ancient city to finish!

stunning scenery of Tam Coc

through the tunnels plop plop plop

yeah peace man - now where is the tip!

Tam Coc is a mixture or pleasure and pain, the lonely planet warns of the Tam Coc tango, the constant hassle and tricks played by the boat women to extract money from you. Forewarned is forearmed, so we kept them at bay as best we could, but they are a pain. Luckily, the reason for going was not to pick fights with boatwomen, but to enjoy the amazing scenery as they paddle you down the river through limestone tunnels between rice fields and stupendous mountains. By chance, it was fairly quiet when we went, so we got to appreciate the true splendour of the place, disturbed only by the rhythmic plop plop plop of the paddles. Very nice.

The pagoda was nothing too special, so we headed on up to the cave, which turned out to be not much of a cave, but a very arduous 500 step climb to another small temple at the top of the hill. We were well rewarded with the view back over the Tam Coc, which was just as well.

a chap from the hotel tagged along to practice English - he was soon enlisted as a porter

our "porter" also doubles as a useful photographer.

Next stop, the half built pagoda complex, the second most bizarre thing in Vietnam after the truly horrendous Cao Dai  temple down south. I cannot remember the name of the new pagoda, but it is essentially a Vietnamese thing with no tourists as such; it is being built from donations and is massive, consisting of a series of linked pagoda’s with stepped arcades up the mountain, thousands of buddha’s, and glitzy temples to top it off. At the top of the hill a new pagoda is being built so tall that would make Hong Kong proud, right in front of another fat knap sack waering Buddha that weighs 70 tons! The closest analogy we had was Disney Land.

Bizzare place funded by donations - feels very odd

view over the sprawling complex from the summit

The return leg  to Ninh Binh was via the ancient city of Hao La, by which stage we were so bushed that we just looked at a couple of temples, looked at each other and knowingly got back in the taxi to go home and rest our feet. For all the cynical comments a memorable and great day out.

new gate to ancient city

Categories: Vietnam Tags: , , ,
  1. clive
    March 5, 2012 at 12:48 am

    I hope you’re having a 70 tonne Lucky Buddha shipped back to yin yang the marble demons?

    • March 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      No, I asked them to send it to St Peters Road. Special Simpson souvenir!

      • clive
        March 7, 2012 at 4:42 pm

        Great I can’t wait, everyone will love rubbing his belly for luck and I can charge a £1 a go too!

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