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2 Days in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

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AsiaBed & BreakfastFoodHotelsNinh BinhToursVietnam
Article author: michael
michael
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In 2019, I spent a month in Vietnam and Thailand. In Vietnam, I went from north to south, starting my trip in Hanoi, and doing a day trip to Ninh Binh while I was there. Despite being a fast-paced single-day tour, it was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Vietnam, and I had an absolute blast.

Fast forward to now: it’s 4 years later, we’ve been through the covid pandemic, and the world is a bit of a different place now than it was back then, with the world economy having taken a good solid beating.

My wife and I are on our first non-chartered, non-exempted time away from home since the pandemic started, and we’re visiting family in Vietnam. While we’re here, Hanoi is our “home-base”, but we’re also doing a bit of travelling to other parts of Vietnam, and one of the places we visited is Ninh Binh.

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Ninh Binh Info

  • Official government tourism site: ninhbinh.gov.vn

    Note: Vietnamese-only as the English-language link doesn’t appear to work

  • Geographical location: Northern Vietnam
  • Average temperature: ~17 to 30 degrees Celsius
  • Current weather:
    Current Weather in Ninh Bình
  • Dry season: Winter (specifically November & December)
  • Best time to visit: All year round, but it’s generally best to avoid any travelling in Vietnam in February, during the Tet holiday
  • Main economy: Agriculture & Tourism

Ninh Binh Itinerary Summary

Day 1

Day 2


Ninh Binh

We weren’t initially planning to visit Ninh Binh on this trip, but my wife has a friend who’s boyfriend, Tuan Anh, invited us and some other friends to visit his hotel in Ninh Binh, so it sounded like a nice little get-away. The boyfriend and his business partner own a few businesses in Ninh Binh, including the hotel, a B&B/Homestay, a beer garden, and another restaurant, so they organized a nice little itinerary for us on our 1st day there.

Day 1

We left for Ninh Binh from Hanoi at around 6am, so we could avoid some of Hanoi’s infamous traffic. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Hanoi to Ninh Binh depending on traffic, and we ended up getting to the hotel at around 8:30am.

Nihn Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Disclaimer: Despite this being my wife’s friend’s boyfriend’s hotel (whew, that was a mouthful! 😆), I’m not being paid to write this, and have no actual affiliation with the hotel in any way. The following is just my honest, unbiased opinion of the hotel.

The friend’s hotel that we stayed at is the Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort. I had no idea what to expect on our way there, but man was I pleasantly surprised when we arrived!

The Outside

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

The Lobby & Restaurant

The hotel itself is really quite gorgeous, with the inside being a nice mix of contemporary and European style - with some of the areas seeming more French-inspired, and other areas looking more Spanish-inspired.

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

The Pool

There’s a nice pool at the back, and the backdrop of the hotel consists of rice fields and the gorgeous karst mountain landscape that Ninh Binh is known for.

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Our Room

Our bedroom wasn’t massive, but it wasn’t small either. The room was really nice and cozy, and the bed was super comfortable. The bathroom was also quite chic, although I found the tub/shower a bit awkward to get into as it was quite high.

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

Our room looked out towards the back of the hotel, which is where the pool and gorgeous karst mountains and rice fields are. Really beautiful view to wake up to!

I really enjoyed our stay at the hotel. The room was super comfy and cozy, the food was delicious, and the staff were all really friendly and helpful. I’d definitely stay here again if I ever come back to Ninh Binh.

The Wooden Gate

After settling into our rooms, we headed out to a B&B/Homestay called The Wooden Gate to go for a swim.

The Wooden Gate

The Wooden Gate

I wasn’t entirely sure at first why we were going to a B&B to go swimming when the Hidden Charm hotel has a nice pool, but it turns out that the B&B is owned by one of the partners of the hotel we were staying at, and they wanted to give us a quick tour and show us the natural spring pool at the B&B.

The Wooden Gate is set up quite nicely, with a private, relaxing, tropical vibe to it.

The Wooden Gate

The pool, as I noted, is a natural spring water pool. It apparently comes down from the mountains, although I have no idea how they route it to the pool itself.

The Wooden Gate

Unfortunately, it seems I was the only adult who actually wanted to go for a dip! So I took my son and we swam/played with the other kids for a bit, while the others were busy talking business!

The Wooden Gate

The Wooden Gate

The Wooden Gate

After swimming, I had a quick snoop around to look at some of the rooms, but I didn’t get a chance to actually snap any pics of the insides. I guess you could check out the official website to see what the rooms look like if you’re interested.

I did take a few pics of the outside of the rooms though, and thought they were really quite cozy looking.

The Wooden Gate

The Wooden Gate

Actually, I wished we would have had the chance to stay for at least a night to really get a feel for the place, but as we weren’t the ones setting the itinerary, we didn’t have the time to do so. Oh well, hopefully next time!

Thung Nham Ecotourism Zone

After swimming, we headed back to the hotel for lunch, and then off to the Thung Nham Ecotourism Zone for a boat ride through the caves and bird sanctuary.

Thung Nham Cave boat ride

When I visited Ninh Binh in 2019, I was on a day tour, and so the “Tam Coc boat ride” was a part of the itinerary.

I think the one I did back then was more like the typical Ninh Binh boat rides through the caves, and I think it was a bit longer. This one, which was with Thung Nham in Hoa Lu, still had the cave boat ride, but was quite a different experience.

First off, Thung Nham is actually a resort. It’s a pretty big resort, with a lot of different activities to do, including a bird sanctuary, a cave, fishing, orchards, and a few other things. I don’t believe it’s owned by the partners of the other businesses we visited, but I’m guessing there’s probably some affiliation.

Thung Nham Cave boat ride

Thung Nham Cave boat ride

Thung Nham Cave boat ride

The boat ride through the cave was ok, but I think the one I did in 2019 was a bit better. That said, I mean, when you’re boating through the caves, it’s pretty dark and hard to see anything, so I don’t think it’s something that I’d personally pay for on it’s own.

Next, we walked over to boat area for the bird sanctuary. It’s another relaxing boat ride, where they paddle you through the bird sanctuary and nature reserve.

Thung Nham bird sanctuary

Thung Nham bird sanctuary

Thung Nham bird sanctuary

There are supposedly 40 species of birds in the sanctuary, but I’m pretty sure the ones we saw were all of the same species. As I’m not a bird expert though, which species, I couldn’t say. Any bird experts out there who can comment on what kind of birds these are? Storks? Herons? Cranes? I have no idea.

Thung Nham bird sanctuary

Thung Nham bird sanctuary

It was interesting to see the birds and the surrounding nature, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was a bird enthusiast. I’m not, so I think the experience was a bit lost on me, but perhaps it’s a nice activity if you’re into that sort of thing.

Note: I’ve read that Thung Nham doesn’t so much cater to foreigners, in that English isn’t spoken by many employees. I was with my wife and her Vietnamese friends, so I didn’t really have to worry about that, but if you’re a foreigner and don’t speak Vietnamese, you may want to keep that in mind.

After that boat ride was finished, we walked around the resort a bit to have a look at the grounds before heading out. It’s really quite pretty and nicely laid out.

Thung Nham resort

Thung Nham resort

Thung Nham resort

Thung Nham resort

Thung Nham resort

Thung Nham resort

Thung Nham Ecotourism Verdict

I think Thung Nham is a beautiful place to visit if you’re in Ninh Binh, but I don’t think it’s a must-see and I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit it. I think it’s fine if you’re looking for a relaxing, nature-filled day, but in my own personal opinion, there are other places in Ninh Binh that are more interesting and worth visiting.

If you’re looking for a fun all-day Ninh Binh tour, the one I did in 2019 was a lot of fun, and I’d recommend that one over Thung Nham. The one I went on in 2019 was a much more fast-paced tour, and departs from Hanoi, but it does the typical Ninh Binh boat ride, as well as a few other activities, including a bike ride through the countryside, and a visit to the ancient capital of Hoa Lu.

Alternatively, you could of course just plan your own day or two in Ninh Binh, and visit the places you want to visit at your own pace, which would really be the ideal way to see Ninh Binh in my opinion.

Chookie’s Beer Garden

After Thung Nham, we headed off to Chookie’s Beer Garden for dinner, which actually wasn’t far from our hotel.

Chookie's Beer Garden

Chookie’s boasts craft beer, wood-fired pizzas, and homemade ice cream among other things. Van, the owner (on the right facing the camera in the pic below), is a super nice guy, and he’s actually one of the ones who organized the day’s itinerary for us.

Chookie's Beer Garden

He arranged an assortment of pizzas, salads, chicken fingers, and all sorts of amazing food. If you haven’t guessed by now, Chookie’s menu isn’t Vietnamese food, but rather mostly Western food. So if you’re looking for Vietnamese food, this definitely isn’t the place to go! 😂

Chookie's Beer Garden

The food was delicious, and man he made sure we had plenty! I was stuffed by the end of it… I think we all were. The beer was also really good, as well as the really interesting and delicious hibiscus cider they make.

I also really love the layout of the place, with a nice little pool in the middle to dip your feet in, or let the kids play around in while you finish your beers.

Chookie's Beer Garden

Chookie's Beer Garden

Chookie's Beer Garden

All in all it was a fantastic end to the day, by the end of which I was absolutely beat!

Day 2

Lotus Flower Field

My wife and I had noticed a lotus flower field when we arrived at the Hidden Charm hotel the day before. My wife, loving flowers, and even more so, taking pics with them, wanted to go take some pics in the field. So we headed out to the field in the morning before breakfast.

Lotus flower field

It was just across the street from the hotel, so it was a quick walk over. The field was quite large, and there were a few other people there taking pics as well. You do have to pay a small fee to enter the field, but it’s not much.

At this particular place, there are a few bamboo structures that you can take pics in, and a number of bamboo bridges/walkways that lead off to different parts of the field. The walkways were definitely not in good shape though, and I kept wondering if they were going to collapse under my weight! Thankfully they didn’t, but I was still a bit nervous walking on them. 😅

Lotus flower field

Lotus flower field

I’d never seen a lotus flower before, and I gotta say, they’re really quite beautiful! The pink colour is really vibrant, and the flowers themselves are quite large.

Lotus flower field

After that, we headed back to the hotel for a nice buffet breakfast.

Conclusion

That was basically it for our time in Ninh Binh this year. We were planning to hit a pagoda on the way back to Hanoi, but everyone was so tired from the day before that we ended up just lazying around the hotel grounds before heading back to Hanoi!

Despite a lazy day 2 though, we had a really great time here. While we still did a lot on day 1, it was a much more relaxed pace than the one I did in 2019, and I certainly enjoyed getting that more relaxed experience.

As I mentioned above in my Thung Nham verdict, you have a number of different options if you visit Ninh Binh, including going the pre-arranged paid-tour route, or just winging it and going at your own pace. Which ever you choose though, Ninh Binh is a beautiful place to visit, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re in Vietnam.

Shout Out

Finally, I just want to give a big shout out to Tuan Anh from the Hidden Charm hotel, and Van from Chookie’s Travels for organizing the trip for us and hosting us for the duration of our stay in Ninh Binh. They were both super friendly and helpful, and I really appreciate them taking the time to show us around and make sure we had a great time. Thanks guys!

Until next time,
michael 😀

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