The bus drives past my destination

emple and karst cliff Halong on Land at Tam Coc

Around 5 am we drive through the countryside of Ninh Binh … and the bus does not stop. When I see a board along the road stating: Goodbye – Hope to see you again in Ninh Binh, I rush forward. The driver’s assistant is snoring. I wake up almost the whole bus to make clear that I’m not heading to Hanoi.

Dropped 10 kilometers from the city center

After some hesitation, the driver stops the bus and turns back to Ninh Binh. I am dropped at the nearest hotel. As I am somewhat upset, I note down the name of the tour company and the license plate of the bus. After all, I did tell the assistant about my destination when I entered the bus in Hue. At the hotel, the receptionist understands approximately three words of English, but I manage to let him make a phone call to the guesthouse of my choice. It appears that I am still 10 kilometers far away from the city center of Ninh Binh.

A trip around the countryside of Ninh Binh on the back of a motorbike

hilltop viewpoint at countryside of Ninh Binh

At 5 o’clock in the morning, it is still pitch dark. Therefore I take a rather costly taxi, but I do get to the guesthouse. The hotel is still closed, but I call them awake. Despite this early hour, the staff arranges a room fairly quickly, and I go to sleep for a couple more hours. At the late breakfast – early lunch I book a trip to the countryside of Ninh Binh to visit Tam Coc and Hoa Lu. This is a tour at the back of a motorcycle. I am curious about the price discussion afterward. At the hotel I make a deal for a small number of dollars, we’ll see.

The karst cliffs at Tam Coc resemble Halong Bay

in a row boat to Tam Coc

The trip to Tam Coc also called Halong Bay on Land, is a pleasant experience. We float in a boat between the karst cliffs. All explanations are in French. On the way back the boat lady opens a suitcase with lace. Just to get rid of it, I buy a small piece. Then, close by, I climb up a hill for a beautiful view of the limestone karst cliffs in the area. The gray weather is a pity as it somewhat spoils the sight. The tour ends up in Hoa Lu, with a visit at two temples, but those are really inferior to what I have seen in Hue. Most of all I enjoyed the motorbike ride through the countryside in Ninh Binh.

dragon at stairs to temple near Tam Coccountryside of Ninh Binh: temple entrance at Hoa Lu

Goat meat for dinner

For dinner, I order goat meat. You have to wrap the meat with some vegetables and herb leaves in rice paper, and then dip it in a sweet-sour sauce and enjoy. After my meal, I get into a pleasant encounter with a 48-year-old German. We keep talking for hours about Vietnam and the booming Asian Tigers, while the beer flows richly. I decided to stay in Ninh Binh for another day, as it is so much more relaxed than Hanoi.