Some places in the world take all your worries away like a mother’s warm hug melting down all your frets. What if there was an actual place, to make you feel the same? A place where the sky lowers in front of the sheer limestone mountains entangled between bewitching riverine landscapes. One can feel the same warmth wrapped around our spine lost in its “serenity” which is also the nickname of Ninh Binh. Locally known as “Ha Long Bay on Land,”
it is a place where tourists visit to find answers, to find themselves, or at the very least for that one warm hug. In this article, you will read about its history, top things to do, the best time to visit, and famous cuisines to try.
A glimpse of the history of this magical place
Ninh Binh, has a rich history dating back to thousands of years, in addition to its natural beauty. Once the capital of Vietnam, it still holds many of the historical relics and monuments built during the Dinh and early Le dynasties. This region was inhabited by the ancient Viets, who were the ancestors of the modern Vietnamese people. The rise and fall of different dynasties and the Vietnamese War both were incapable of laying a figure on the beauty of this place.
Top things to do in Ninh Binh
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- The view from Hang Mua: Dramatically craved 500 steps into the steep face of a mountain at Hang Mua will lead you to a mesmerizing bird’s-eye view of Ninh Binh. From this point, one can witness the snake-like river lazily moving through the rice fields.
- Boat Tour in Kenh Ga: Kenh Ga is a picturesque floating village where you can take a boat tour along the river, observing daily life and the unique scenery of waterways and limestone formations. This is a great opportunity to peep into the cultural aspects of this place.
- Visit Tam Coc: Often referred to as “Halong Bay on land,” Tam Coc offers a serene and picturesque setting with limestone karsts jutting out of the rice paddies. You can take a traditional sampan boat ride through the Trang An River and enjoy the scenic views.
- Explore Bai Dinh Pagoda: As one of the largest Buddhist complexes in Southeast Asia, Bai Dinh Pagoda boasts magnificent architecture and serene surroundings. It’s a great place for cultural immersion and a sense of tranquility.
- Bich Dong Pagoda: Nestled within a limestone hill, Bich Dong Pagoda is a series of caves and shrines with historical and religious significance. It’s a serene place to explore and witness the peaceful atmosphere.
- Bird Watching at Van Long Nature Reserve: This pristine wetland area is home to various bird species, including the rare Delacour’s langur. It’s an excellent spot for bird watching and enjoying the peaceful scenery.
Best time to visit Ninh Binh, Vietnam
A humid subtropical climate followed by distinct seasons, each offering an extraordinary experience to the tourists. The best time to visit Ninh Binh is apparently when the rainfall is relatively low and when the weather is pleasant. This makes the months of April to June and September to October the best time to pay a visit.
- From April to June: During this season the temperature is mild ranging from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. This weather with vibrant landscapes and beautiful shades of green emerging from the rice paddies contributes to its alluring scenery. Witnessing the karst mountain ranges, caves, and rivers is a heavenly experience Ninh Binh.
- From September to October: This time of the year is best for munching on outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and boat trips. The fall season of September, which is also the rice harvesting season, provides a mesmerizing sight of golden rice fields to visitors.
- From February to March: For those interested in experiencing the local festivals of Ninh Binh, this is the best time of the year to pay a visit. The mountains, caves, river, and the sky everything comes alive during these months. The vibrant celebrations showcase the traditions, customs, and spiritual beliefs of the local community.
Places you should not miss in Ninh Binh
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- Cuc Phuong National Park: As Vietnam’s first national park, exploring its beauty is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh. Its diverse array of flora and fauna includes rare and endangered species that enhance the natural essence of this place. The butterfly season, occurring from April to June is one of the most spectacular attractions of this park. In this season, thousands of colorful butterflies flutter around, creating a mesmerizing experience to witness. The park also has many hiking trails and one can visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, and discover the ancient caves and limestone formations scattered throughout the park.
- The Dancing Caves: Mua Caves, also commonly known as Hang Mua, is a vibrant attraction for visitors. According to the old legends, Emperor Tran Thai Tong used to watch dance performances at this site, hence the name “Hang Mua,” or “dancing cave”. To accumulate a heavenly experience at the summit of this mountain, one has to embark on a steep climb of around 500 steps. This climb will be rewarded with an out-of-the-world view of the surrounding mountains gently placed between the rice fields. The charm and historical significance of this place are amplified by the intricate carvings and ancient shrines in the caves.
- Thung Nham Bird Garden: This popular destination in Ninh Binh is a heaven on earth for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. Thung Nham is spread around 334 hectares of mountains, caves, and wetlands, which in return creates a perfect habitat for a diverse range of bird species. One can observe various bird species, such as stork, heron, mallard, forktail, flamingo, and many more from a boat ride through the wetlands. Apart from that, you can also engage in other activities like exploring caves and enjoying the local cuisine.
Cuisines to taste the culture of Ninh Binh
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When visiting Ninh Binh, not only will you be captivated by its stunning landscapes and rich history, but you’ll also get to savor some delicious local cuisine. The region’s cuisine is deeply rooted in Vietnamese tradition, offering a mix of flavors, ingredients, and dishes that reflect the essence of the country. Here are some must-try foods:
- Com Chay (Burned Rice): Com Chay is a simple yet unique local delicacy made by pan-frying cooked rice until it turns crispy and slightly burned. It’s often served with a side of dipping sauce or toppings like dried shrimp, beef floss, and peanuts. The contrasting textures of the crispy rice and savory toppings make it a delightful snack.
- Freshwater Seafood: With its extensive network of rivers and water bodies, Ninh Binh is a prime spot for freshwater seafood. Enjoy dishes like grilled fish, steamed snails, and fish hotpot, all prepared with a variety of herbs and seasonings that enhance the natural flavors.
- Bun Cha Gio (Spring Roll Noodles): Bun Cha Gio is a popular Vietnamese dish that’s readily available in Ninh Binh. It consists of fresh rice noodles served with crispy spring rolls, fresh herbs, and a flavorful dipping sauce. The combination of textures and flavors makes it a delightful meal.
- Mussel Rice: Ninh Binh’s mussel rice is a unique dish that features locally harvested mussels stir-fried with aromatic herbs and served over a bed of steamed rice. The flavors are a delightful blend of saltiness and freshness.
- Ninh Binh-Style Pho: Ninh Binh’s version of the classic Vietnamese pho features a flavorful broth, tender rice noodles, and a selection of meats or tofu. It’s a perfect dish for those looking for a comforting and delicious meal.
Whether you’re a fan of savory dishes, fresh seafood, or delightful snacks, Ninh Binh offers a diverse range of culinary experiences to satisfy your palate. This place sounds like nothing but a fairy tale, with hundreds of types of birds soaring in the sky, dodging humongous mountains. With thousands of butterflies fluttering and feasting and dancing just above the waters of the river flowing like ribbons dancing on the wind.
It is hard to believe that something like this even exists, someplace that sounds so magical and real. It is impossible to portray “Magic” and “Reality” in one picture. But Ninh Binh is exactly that picture, or maybe it is the very link to connect reality with magic. We hope you enjoyed reading our article and received amazing insights from it. We hope once in a lifetime you get the opportunity to go and see this heaven on earth and don’t forget to receive that hug.