A thrilling family journey from vacations to exploration in Ninh Binh - Day 1: Motorbiking around Ninh Binh

family trip on-boat-in-halong-bay

“Capturing our family journeys! Our trips are venturing outward from "vacations" to exploration of the unfamiliar and it is THRILLING.”

-From Chic Family-

Let’s follow Chic Family’s footprints of 5 days 4 nights in Ninh Binh and Pu Luong, Vietnam to get some ideas for your next journey.

Night 1: From Halong Bay to Ninh Binh

It was a long drive from Halong Bay to Ninh Binh, but we were thrilled to arrive at the "Halong Bay on Land" destination despite we just had amazing 3 days in Halong Bay. Heads-up - this was our favorite destination of our ENTIRE Vietnam trip!

on-way-from-halong-bay-to-ninh-binh

Welcome to Ninh Binh

Our eco-friendly lodging Tam Coc Garden is a lovely garden resort outside of the main town that feels so peaceful.  We are staying in a family bungalow with killer views of towering limestone karsts all around.  There's a garden-surrounded pool, on-site restaurant, and free bikes to take the short distance to sights.

view-from-our-bungalow-in-ninhbinh-tam-coc-garden-resort

 View from our bungalow in Ninh Binh Tam Coc garden resort

We had just a taste of the landscape as we drove in and we were definitely blown away already by this "Halong Bay on Land".  We came with high expectations after seeing a bit of the region on "Amazing Race" prior to our travels.  Initial impressions of our accommodation are TOP!  We are feeling our breathing calm. 

room-in-tam-coc-garden-resort

dinning-room-in-tam-coc-garden-resort

Dinning room in Tam Coc Garden resort

dinner-in-tamcoc-garden-resort

banh xeo

Banh xeo

goodnight-moon-tam-coc-garden-resort

tam-coc-garden-resort-pool-in-night

In the night

We settled into our comfy beds excited for the morning to come and our big adventure family motorbiking around the sights of Ninh Binh. We would be meeting our guide Toan, whom I had booked a huge chunk of our trip with based solely on Internet reviews and email communication.

Day 1: Family motorkibing Ninh Binh

This morning, we met our guide (pre-booked off the internet communicating by email) for the next 4 days - Toan.

But, first we discovered that the complimentary breakfast at Tam Coc Garden is AWESOME.  You order whatever you want off a menu and the selection is all things you could possibly want.  We may or may not have eaten 3 breakfasts each.  See ya later Bungalow 12, we met Toan in the lobby at 8:30am ready for some adventure!

He showed up with 3 other guys and 4 motorbikes. We sorted the pairings and helmets.  Yes, I was nervous after hearing so many stories of ill-fated tourists, but shrugged it off and threw caution to the wind. And, off we went for a full day of motor biking from site to site. 

on motorbike around ninh binh

Let's go

Woo hoo! It was awesome - we were a force to be reckoned with with our gang of 4 bikes zipping up, down, and all around the countryside. Exhilarating time had by all!

motorbiking-around-ninh-binh

We started with a 2-hour boat ride through Trang An, an ecological UNESCO World Heritage site of cave complex (some really tight spots in those caves!!), mountains, river and pagodas and temples. It was absolutely stunning and the caves were an incredible experience. This is where King Kong: Skull Island was filmed!! 

on-boat-trang-an-complex

On boat to explore Trang An Complex

trang-an-complex

caves in trang an

Watch out your head as heading in the caves

trang an tour

Like in the middle of a big well

temple in trang an

temples in trang an

Visitting some temples 

trang an

Afterwards, we motorbiked to a restaurant for lunch. Refueled with energy to continue, we then explored temples of the Dinh and Le Dynasty learning fascinating tales of royal scandal from Toan. 

temples-of-Dinh-Le-Dynasty-in-Ninh-Binh

temples-of-Dinh-Le-Dynasty-in-Ninh-Binh-tour

temples-of-Dinh-Le-Dynasty-in-Ninh-Binh

We continued to the archaeological site of the original palace floors. This was pretty neat to see and I think it was at this point that Rob began to really appreciated having Toan as a guide as we spent a very long time around here. 

palace in ninh binh

ninh binh

It was getting hot, so the girls and I rested in the shade while Rob and Toan meandered their way towards us at a snail's pace.  I could sense the girls losing their steam in the heat, but Toan said we would cool off with some motorbiking as we headed to our last spot. That sounded good, so back on the bikes!

family trip in ninh binh

Roadside exploring!  We really loved the ease of the motorbikes for stopping here and there just to explore random finds on the side of the road.  Kids absolutely had a blast! Learned about some interesting things.

lotus-fields-in-ninh-binh

lotus-fields-in-ninh-binh-tour

At one point, I nearly spun my head around full circle when we passed these water buffalos. My driver noticed and turned around so I could get a closer look. I got off the bike and walked all the way to the edge of the water to see them. There were a few guys sitting by the roadside that I assumed were their owners. Really enjoyed these simple moments. Back on the bike, my driver drove at break-neck speed to catch up to the group. I couldn't figure out if he was worried about catching up to stay together or if perhaps he had no idea where Toan was taking us next. Hahahaha, he probably would have been embarrassed if he had to call to find them.

scenery-around-ninh-binh

Our final spot was Bich Dong, which comprises 3 levels of pagodas with the top one inside a cave full of bats. It was definitely worth the climb up all those steep steps. The kids were fantastic the whole day in the heat.  Our cooling towels were key! 

bich-dong-in-ninh-binh

Entrance of Bich Dong

bich-dong-in-ninh-binh

bich-dong-in-ninh-binh

bich-dong-in-ninh-binh

bich-dong-in-ninh-binh

bich-dong-in-ninh-binh

bich-dong-in-ninh-binh

It turned out to be a brilliant decision to see the area by motorbikes and we really had a splendid time zipping through the dirt back roads of the countryside. The kids definitely earned their pool time!

tam-coc-garden-resort-pool

We are heading off the grid in the morning to Pu Luong Nature Reserve for trekking and a couple of homestays with Thai ethnic minority hill tribe families, but will return back to our same accommodation in a few days.