Guides to discover the best attraction of Ninh Binh in a day trip

Is Ninh Binh worth it?

Some of my foreign friends asked me that. Well, my answer is definitely YES, and I have to say that I LOVE NINH BINH. I know it’s not like Halong Bay where is well-known as a must-visit touristic place in Vietnam, especially with your tight travel time, it must be really hard for you to decide Ninh Binh or Sapa or Ha Giang? One day or two days is enough for Ninh Binh? If you are kind of traveler who are more into countryside, then Ninh Binh is a great opportunity to peek into the rural way of living. It’s all very laid-back and serene, just how the Vietnam experience should be.

Maybe my below diary of one day around Ninh Binh could inspire you some ways and give you some travel tips for planning your itinerary.

How to get to Ninh Binh? 

How to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh? 

By bus or by train: 2 hours from Hanoi to Ninh Binh town.

It was on 1st Jan of New Year 2018, and luckily it was a dry day after many days of drizzling. I went to Giap Bat bus station for a regular bus from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. The price was 70.000dong (~3usd) for one way ticket.

Giap Bat bus station address: Giai Phong Str., Hoang Mai Dist., Hanoi

Giap-bat-bus-station

Giap Bat bus station - Just looking for a bus with a sign board of Ninh Binh

From Hanoi, you can reach Ninh Binh city by train at Hanoi railway station. There are at least 3 southbound trains available (SE5, SE7, SE19).

Hanoi Railway Station address: 120 Le Duan Str., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi.

hanoi-railway-station

Hanoi railway station

Tips: - The bus may grab more people on way to Ninh Binh. So getting on the bus at the bus station to guarantee a seat for you, especially in peak days. And be noticed that this bus only takes you to Ninh Binh town where are 20km to Bai Dinh Pagoda and 8km to Trang An Complex.

          -If you are not confident getting to the bus station, I recommend you should ask your hotel or a trusty travel agency to book a ticket of bus which will pick you up at your hotel. The bus ticket prices are around 20$-25$/person for a roundtrip ticket.

How to get to Ninh Binh from other places?

If you’re coming from the south or the center of Vietnam, you also have both the train and bus options.

Make it easier by checking the train routes here

There are buses going to Ninh Binh directly from Halong Bay or Cat Ba. It’s very convenient as it allows you go to both areas without having to pass through Hanoi. There is a bus from Bai Chay station that goes to Ninh Binh.

 

How to get back from Ninh Binh to Hanoi or other places? 

By bus: The very 1st thing I have to remind you is MAKE SURE YOU REACH THE NINH BINH BUS STATION BEFORE 5P.M otherwise you will be stuck in Ninh Binh like I almost was. You can’t find a bus from Ninh Binh after 5p.m which I luckily was warned in advance by a taxi driver on my way from Ninh Binh town to Bai Dinh Pagoda.

Ninh Binh bus station address: Le Dai Hanh st., Ninh Binh town.

By train: You’d better check in advance the schedule of trains from Ninh Binh.

Ninh Binh railway station address: No.1, Lane 41, Hoang Hoa Tham Str., Ninh Binh town.

 

What to do in Ninh Binh in one day? 

Looking at the map of Ninh Binh, you could find 3 main touristic areas:

  1. Trang An Grottoes; Bai Dinh Pagoda; Hoa Lu Ancient Citadel
  2. Tam Coc Rice Fields; Bich Dong Pagoda; Hang Mua; Thung Nham Bird Park.
  3. Cuc Phuong National park; Phat Dien Cathedral.

I had only 1 day in Ninh Binh and it was in January when is not the best time for sightseeing the lush rice fields in Tam Coc, and also the weather in January is not good for trekking in Cuc Phuong National Park, then I decided to go with Bai Dinh and Trang An Landscape Complex.

First attraction of Ninh Binh: Bai Dinh Pagoda

The new Bai Dinh pagoda 

After nearly 2 hours on bus, I reached Ninh Binh town at 10:30am. As I was navigating for Bai Dinh Pagoda, a taxi driver came and offer me a ride. Actually there is a bus from Ninh Binh town to Bai Dinh pagoda but I’m not familiar there and to save time, then I took that taxi driver’s offer. 20km from Ninh Binh town to Bai Dinh pagoda cost me 200,000dong (~10$). It’s not cheap but it was worth for me because the taxi driver gave me a valuable information of the last bus in Ninh Binh bus station to Hanoi at 5pm everyday which saved me because I planned to come back to the bus station at 6pm.

Tips: To save money, you could have a taxi motorbike service to ride you.

Located in a mountain area, Bai Dinh is a HUGE religious complex and there are 2 main ways/gates to start your journey: No.1 and No.2 in the below Bai Dinh Pagoda map.

bai-dinh-pagoda-map-vntravel

Bai Dinh pagoda tourist map

bai-dinh-overview

Bai Dinh Pagoda from top view

To save time I started at the gate No.1 to go directly to the Tower (Bao Thap) – No.14. At the gates, there are electric car station for those don’t like to walk. The price is 30,000dong/person (~1,5$) for one way ticket.

road-to-the-tower-in-bai-dinh-vntravel

Pampas grass road – Road from Gate No.1 to The Tower in Bai Dinh Pagoda

After 20 minutes of walking across a pampas grass road, I reached the Tower. There is an elevator in the Tower to the top for a panorama of the whole Ninh Binh and I missed it. What a pity!

The ticket for getting into the Tower is 50,000dong/person (~2$).

the-tower-in-bai-dinh-pagoda

The tower (Bao Thap) in Bai Dinh pagoda

the-tower-in-bai-dinh-pagoda-vntravel

Thanks GoPro for this pic :)

at-the-gate-the-tower-bai-dinh-pagoda

Charge 50,000dong to get inside and up to the top of The Tower

Then I was just walking around and tried to take many photos of the scenery here but I’m telling you “No photos can do this place justice!”

in bai dinh

Challenge your imagination for best pics

in-bai-dinh-pagoda

In the middle of the new Bai Dinh Pagoda

in-bai-dinh-pagoda-ninh-binh

I'm strong:))

in-bai-dinh-pagoda-attraction

Flying....

in-bai-dinh-pagoda-attraction

HUGE!!!

in-bai-dinh-pagoda-ninh-binh-complex

Inside the halls

in-bai-dinh-pagoda-attraction

Well, basically there are 3 main halls in the similar architect: The Kuan-Yin Hall; The Buddha Sakyamuni Hall; The Three Periods Hall. I was overwhelmed by the massiveness of 5,000 Buddha statues, a 36-ton bronze bell. Because everything on the whole way are just the same, so I do recommend joining a random tourist group with a tour guide which definitely makes you trip have more fun. The tour guides are really good at story-telling.

The ancient Bai Dinh pagoda 

You are a very lucky one as reading this dairy cos I’m gonna tell you a big secret of this pagoda. There are 2 Bai Dinh Pagoda: one is the new big one which was built in 2003; and the other is the ancient pagoda which has a thousand years of history. This ancient pagoda is also on the map, but I don’t know why there are not many tourists going there. It’s 1km from the last hall in new pagoda complex to the ancient Bai Dinh Pagoda. And wandering on that 1km bamboo road to the ancient pagoda is my best memory of the whole trip as I was the only one walking there and sensed the serene scenery. It’s surreal!

way-to-the-ancient-bai-dinh-pagoda

Follow me to the old Bai Dinh Pagoda

gate-of-the-ancient-bai-dinh-pagoda

At the entrance of the Old Bai Dinh Pagoda

After taking some steps up, I reached 2 temples enclosed in a mountain. And from here, you could enjoy a great view of the whole Bai Dinh.

temples-in-grottos-bai-dinh-tour

Go inside to discover the temple in the grotto

temples-in-grottos-bai-dinh-tour

temples-in-grottos-bai-dinh-tour

limestone-cliff-in-bai-dinh

A little pond inside the grotto

I was happy that I didn’t skip the ancient pagoda. But I was running out of time.haha. It was 1pm and I was at the very top of Bai Dinh Pagoda and still got Trang An Landscape Complex to go. RUNNNNN!

the-tower-in-bai-dinh-pagoda-a-day-trip

Running but still in the mood of posing

2nd attraction of Ninh Binh: Trang An Landscape Complex 

I met a female taxi motorbike rider at the gate who rode me to the restaurant for lunch and then to the Trang An Complex. Oh FYI, Ninh Binh has many delicious dishes of goat that you shouldn’t miss out.

It’s about 10km from Bai Dinh Pagoda to Trang An Complex and it cost me 50,000dong (~2$). Be noticed that there is an old Trang An Complex which is still opened for tourists but it’s much smaller than the new one. So carefully check if Google map navigates the new one.

As I just reach the gate of Trang An Complex, I was WOW, this is exactly what I love.

trang_an_bns-travel

Buy a boat ticket at the counter (200,000dong/person ~ 10$) and wait. There are 1000’s of boats waiting there and they generally won’t go unless you have a minimum of 4 people so be prepared to share.

Tips: There are 2 routes for boat ride in Trang An Landscape Complex. Basically they are similar, the 1st route has more caves than the 2nd route, yet the 2nd one was picked for filming in King Kong The Skull Island which was the key made of my decision for the 2nd route.

Trang_An_route

2 routes of Trang An boat tour

  • The first route offers you a chance to visit more caves ( 9-11 caves): long, short, light, dark caves. In the season, when water level is high, the caves are flooded, we can not visit (updated announcement by management board on site). In this route, you can visit 3 spiritual temples & pagoda including Trinh Temple dedicated to four head mandrins of Dinh dynasty, ancient Tran temple with a nice trekking route through mountain to visit a stone temple worshipping Tran Quy Minh saint, and Phu Khong temple worshiping loyal mandrins in Dinh dynasty, who did bury the king Dinh Tien Hoang secretly somewhere, then killed themselves to keep that secret - burial site of the king forever. Great to know about the information of Vietnam history in 10th & 11th century when Ninh Binh was chosen as the heart of Vietnam.
  • The second boat tour route is recently opened and less touristic than the first one.With only 4 hidden caves you can visit on boat journey but natural with their beautiful stalagtites hanging down.The shape of mountains is more magnificient & picturesque.The river water is clear to view aquatic plants living on the river bed.The nature is more pristine with forested mountains & green valleys of reeds & bushes.This route is not with hard trek but interesting walks to Tran temple, to Vu Lam worshipping palace of Tran dynasty,and specially to a sample village of aboriginal people, recenly set with many simple bamboo huts, red hangovesr & friendly local villagers – the same as the village you watch in latest Kong movie: “Kong: Skull Island".This route is a interesting combination of movie screen with real-life experience of shooting location in "Kong: Skull Island".
  • FYI, in February 2018, 2 more new routes were officially opened for tourists, which have more traditional activities besides sightseeing.

Trang An boat riding:

The best way to enjoy this inspiring scenery is to take a boat ride. A lady rower will row the boat for you, the technique they use to manouevre the boat inside the underwater caves is truly amazing. You may see some photos of the rowers using their legs to row the boats but now they are not allowed to do that. Guess why!

Since the whole trip lasts for about 2-3 hours, I helped the rower for some time by using the spare oars.

During the route, you will be into some caves to observe the limestone cliffs in various shapes, and visit some temples. Sometimes I felt like I was in the middle of a huge well, sometimes it was like throwing back to the primitive time as I heard the sound of birds in the mountains, the sound of rowing water. Wow, I wish there were words or photos to express that feeling. The landscape really soothes your soul. Just go there and feel it!

trang-an-boat-route-2

Trang an boat route 2

trang-an-boat-tour

photography-in-trang-an

You may catch a couple shooting for their wedding album

into-the-grotto-trang-an-tour

Watch out your head

trang-an-route-of-king-kong

Don't you realize that head of King Kong?!

temples-in-trang-an-route-2

Temple in route 2

King Kong The Skull Island outdoor film studio

Haha finally I could see my favorite part. I was having a lot of fun with the local actors and actress here.

king-kong-film-studio-in-trang-an-route-2

Remember the boat in "Kong: Skull Island"?

king-kong-film-studio-in-trang-an-tour

The aboriginal people are very friendly

king-kong-film-studio-in-trang-an-boat-tour

Playing seek and hide :))

It was not the best time to travel to Ninh Binh, but I’m glad that I spent the 1st day of New Year in a breathtaking surreal landscape. Moreover, that time was not full of tourists which let me properly enjoy an extremely low-key and amazingly scenic place.

Oh Gosh, it was 5pm being back to the shore. Just grab a taxi and praying for a luck. 10km from Trang An Complex to Ninh Binh town suddenly were dam long way for me that time. Lucky for me, I made it catching the last bus to come back Hanoi. However, the bus was full of people, it doubled the amount of people it’s legally allowed to carry (I guess) which scared me a bit.  Anyway, I was home safe and had an amazing adventurous day ever.

hue-traditional-food-of-vietnam

Back to Hanoi and enjoy a special yummy dinner

See more: A 4-day thrilling journey for full discovery all of best attractions in Ninh Binh

H.O.A - BNS Travel

"From bottom of my heart, my passion is spreading my love for my beautiful and friendly Vietnam to all the world"

Tags: