We heard many travel stories from travelers who were in Ninh Binh. Each story was unique and we forgot all of them once we smelled the fresh air filled with heavenly scent coming from an unknown direction. All we could think of was “Where is it coming from?”. We settled on the obvious answer “flowers” without any in the site and moved down the sidewalk. It has been a while since we were in Ninh Binh, but it feels like yesterday. Come to think of our short time there, peace and joy appear. It is always a marvel to see the lush natural world where people work hand in hand with nature. Now please, join us in loring the natural wonders of Ninh Binh, Vietnam.
Working With the Land
Many people in the area earn their living by producing food. Many of them said no to dirty food in 2016 and turned away from harmful chemical agricultural products. Instead, they went back to the roots and joined forces with animals. For example, duck-patrol does marvels for pest control in rice fields. Farmers likely keep ducks for more than just hunting slugs and other critters. As far as we know ducks lay eggs and their sacrifice leaves behind some tasty proteins. Incredible Peking duck from Red Rose Restaurant in Bangkok is still very much alive in our memory.
We also must mention the Ninh Binh delicacy – goats. Goats are perfect for steep limestone mountains that no one can reach at least not for fun. However, enjoyment is by the Ngo Dong River where people fish for food and money.
Peace & Quiet at Ninh Binh
Only when we got to the Ninh Binh, we realized how much we missed the silence. Finally, our ears got a break from the big city uproar! The drastic change was almost scary at first, but we welcomed it with all our hearts. On top of that, we were able to breathe deeper and taste the sweetness of unpolluted air. Little did we know this was just the beginning of our serene time in the countryside.
Sometimes, maybe overly serene… How could we know that whenever we wanted some fruit from the market, we needed to wake up a seller to make a purchase? Honestly, we felt bad waking up people for some fruit, but luckily, there was always one who was awake.
Ninh Binh Can Be Active & Attractive
Soon we shared the need for a power nap, just like locals. All the running around from one pagoda to the other takes a toll. Who wouldn’t want to see the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia or the legendary Bich Dong Pagoda? Then there are 500 steps leading to the Hang Mua viewpoints. That goes if you leave out the caves! Since we came this far, we had to see it all.
Of course, we only scratched the surface of an area where the first Vietnamese capital, Hoa Lu, used to be. Once we started to feel overwhelmed by the beauty we hopped in a boat. A boat ride in Ninh Binh is a must no matter the waiting time. Supposedly, the boat must be full to get going, but anything can be arranged for the right price. Most likely you’ll get to experience a smooth ride powered by old feet. Some say that people use their feet to row because their hands are tired. Whatever the reason, we were preoccupied by the beauty around us. Finally, we understood why people call Ninh Binh the “Ha Long Bay on Land”.
Past & Present of Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is one of the increasingly rare places on Earth where a company of 1,000-year-old living beings is still possible. A handful of silent giants call Cuc Phuong National Park home. To clarify, I am talking about trees. And here around you will see some amazing examples.
No doubt, the first Vietnamese national park is the most important site for the country’s biodiversity. Like many rural gems, also Ninh Binh focuses on agrotourism to represent the local traditional culture. All we can say is that we hope the practices are truly kept in the spirit of the past. True to the practice that improves land year after year. This way the fairytales of the past can become a wonderful reality for future generations. Sadly, monoculture is still the most popular way of growing food, and the sea of pineapples is a highly desired background for countless selfies.
It is impossible to top the 50 shades of green surrounded by limestone peaks with places of worship in between. As luck would have it, words do shape-shift and one can admire beauty in its raw form in many different ways. Every angle tells a different story, one impossibly different than the other. Our goal was to get immersed in Mother Nature and forget the rest.
We went to great lengths to skip the unpleasant label “walking ATM” that sticks to all tourists and got a better deal because of that. Our pact was about chilling in front of the lake with limestone mountains around it, simply existing and embracing the stunning surroundings. It also means tasty food and no speeding heart rate. No wonder that Hanoians like weekends in Ninh Binh, who wouldn’t?