Ninh Binh, a city in the northeast of Vietnam just ninety kilometers south of Hanoi, is a little bit dusty and it isn't a paradise for tourists or backpackers. The city doesn't have much to see or do, but is many times used as a base to explore the areas of Tam Coc and Hoa Lu. The last one, Hoa Lu, is just thirteen kilometers from Ninh Binh -- and you will have to pay an entrance fee -– and is an ancient capital of a Vietnamese kingdom more than a thousand years ago, and will definitely make your trip worth it. Here you will find a lot of ruins but the best are the temples that lay in a narrow valley and the saddle mountain –- just on the opposite side, after a “few” steps –- that will give you the best panoramic view of the ancient city. The best way to reach Hoa Lu is by bicycle, but ask the locals some advice for the best route.
If you save the best for last, that should be Tam Coc. It is also reachable by bicycle, but make sure you take a map with you, as the way to explore the area is much more complex than Hoa Lu; you can take an early boat and make sure you go to the cave pagoda known as Bich Dong and find the amazing three Buddhas that rest in there. Than let yourself be amazed by the natural beauty of Tam Coc and explore the area in a relaxed way.
The best way to arrive in Ninh Binh is by train from Hanoi but there are also reliable buses coming to the city. The hostels in Ninh Binh are well prepared to provide you all the information you need to explore Hoa Lu and Tam Coc. There are a few hostels in Ninh Binh and usually they have some travelers, so it is a good place to exchange some travelers' stories and experiences.
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