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3 best things to do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

3 best things to do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

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    1. Bicycling – Welcome to Bicycling Nivarna

    Riding a bike and explore the surroundings is already a reason to visit Ninh Binh. To my personal experiences, Ninh Binh is cycling heaven. From Ninh Binh city, you can reach a lot of beautiful sites. What you should do is look at the map and search for where the next sight is. Then, choose a longer and more unconventional way to get there. By skipping the main road, you can stay away from the visitors coming in their flocks.

    Wandering along the tiny paths in the rice fields or dirt roads will enrich your travel experience much more. Goats are running ahead of you. Quacking ducks rush into a pool when you pass by. Water buffaloes leisurely graze near the rice fields. Children skip along the path, wave their hands and say “Hello” to you. The bright and sunny smiles on their mouth will chill you out.  Besides, it’s fascinating to see where the locals live and how they work in the fields to grow rice.

    Read more: Places to stay in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

    #1: Don’t worry if you hear a lot of honks. One of the bad habits of the Vietnamese is that they honk so much. They honk when passing others, honk when upset and they honk when people aren’t moving fast enough. Just remember to ride on the right instead of on the left.

    #2: Make sure you bring a good map with you, but bear in mind this might useless sometimes. The Internet reception is pretty good so that you can use GPS and an online map. Alternatively, ask passers-by for help. #3: Remember to drive/ride on the right.

    2. Taking part in local festivals

    In Vietnam, festivals give visitors the best opportunity of getting close to the customs and immersing into national spirits. Despite being on the rise, Vietnam remains to be a traditional country. There are thousands of pagodas, temples, and shrines dedicated to Buddha, various deities as well as commemorating national heroes.
    Almost all festivals in Vietnam take place in spring as it’s the beginning of Lunar New Year. If visiting Ninh Binh in spring, take your time to take part in one of following local festivals:

    Hoa Lu Ancient Festival

    Where: Truong Yen Commune, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam
    How to get there: motorbike, taxi
    When: 6th, 7th, 8th March (Lunar Calendar)
    (You can convert English calendar to lunar calendar by searching Google)

    The Hoa Lu ancient traditional festival is also known as Truong yen, Co Lau festival. This festival is an opportunity of commemorating King Le and national heroes: Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh. After the Ly decided to move his government to Thang Long, the locals in Ninh Binh started celebrating this festival. Hoa Lu Ancient Festival preserves both cultural and historic values of Vietnam. Attending this festival, visitors have chances of joining a lot of special activities such as the water procession ceremony, incense offering ceremony, fire procession ceremony, drag text, cooking rice competition…

    Read more: Places to visit in Ninh Binh

    The water procession ceremony, starting in the early morning is elaborately prepared. Many days prior to the festival, people “plant” a big bamboo in the Hoang Long River (Golden Dragon River). On the top of the bamboo, they hang a yellow banner presenting the gratefulness and respect of hundreds of descendants to the Golden Dragon. Legend has it that in the past, the golden dragon under this river appeared and helped King Le when he got into difficulty. The banner also blesses the gods for gentle waters in the river and favorable weather.

    Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival

    Where: Gia Sinh, Gia Vien Ward, Ninh Binh
    How to get there: taxi, motorbike
    When: Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival takes place on the 1st day of Tet holiday and lasts until the end of March. This festival embarks on the spiritual pilgrimage to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam.

    Bai Dinh pagoda festival consists of two main parts. The first part is the celebration of incense offering ceremony to commemorate the sacrifice of Cao Son and Mau Thuong Ngan. The festival begins with a ritual procession to worship Cao Son, Duc Thanh Nguyen and Ba Chua Thuong Ngan from the ancient temple to the new temple. The second part is time for folk games and temple sightseeing. It’s a unique opportunity for visitors to enjoy classic traditional music including Xam, Cheo, and  Ca Tru. Ca Tru is one of the intangible cultural heritage of Vietnam. In conclusion, taking part in Bai Dinh Pagoda festival, visitors will immerse themselves in a space where culture, history, and spirituality harmoniously combine together. The venue of outstanding universal value and the meeting place of those will share the same passion to discover the diversity of culture and nature.

    Nguyen Cong Tru Temple Festival

    Where: Nguyen Cong Tru Temple is on the Highway No 10, 2 kilometers from Phat Diem Town which belonging to Quang Thien commune, Kim Son District, Ninh Binh,
    How to get there: motorbike, taxi
    When: from 13th to 15th Lunar month
    (You can convert English calendar to lunar calendar by searching Google)

    Nguyen Cong Tru Temple Festival is the biggest celebration of the coastal residents in Kim Son District. This festival is the time people commemorate Nguyen Cong Tru who had a notable contribution to founding this region. Nguyen Cong Tru is one of the most brilliant nineteenth-century poets.

    In this festival, residents of many villages in Kim Son burn the incense and place flowers and fruits on the altar. It’s a unique festival with the participation of both Buddhist and Christian. Along the side of Vac River, people celebrate many traditional games. Visitors can also enjoy folk dance and classical music called “Ca Tru” (chamber music)

    3. Hiking in Cuc Phuong National Park

    Cuc Phuong – The oldest national park in Vietnam. 

    In 1960, Cuc Phuong was officially transformed into a forest reserve and 2 years later, it’s recognized the first national park. Located 60 kilometers to the west of Ninh Binh city, Cuc Phuong National Park nestles amongst three provinces including Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh, and Thanh Hoa. Cuc Phuong possesses many fascinating cultural and wildlife heritage. Cuc Phuong National Park harbors 336 incredible documented bird species. Besides, Cuc Phuong is the house of over 2234 vascular and non-vascular plants, 122 species of reptiles and amphibian, and 135 species of mammal including the Clouded Leopard, Delacour’s Langur, Owston’s Civet and Asian Black Bear. Limestone mountains in Cuc Phuong form the habitat for some of Asia’s rarest animal and plant species. Visiting Cuc Phuong in April and May, tourists might be blessed with the chance of catching the view of literally thousands of vibrant butterflies.

    The scenery of the forest brings a new color with the presentation of a huge flock of the butterfly. Source: Khám Phá Di Sản

    How to explore Cuc Phuong National Park

    To explore the park, you should travel by a combination of motorbike or bicycle and foot. The park center lies 20 kilometers from the Visitor Center, which means that it’s not much fun to walk. It’s a hilly road so that it’s also not suitable for cycling.

    When visiting Cuc Phuong, you will spend the morning in the Visitor Center where you can learn more about the park from the pictures and models on display. Then, visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center where you can observe some of the rarest primate species in the world. After that, visit the Turtle Conservation Center where 20 species of turtle and tortoises are kept for rescue and conservation. It will be amazing to learn how the center successfully breeds and releases turtles of different species and their effort in raising public awareness about the importance of protecting Vietnam’s turtles.In the afternoon, there are many options for you:

    Option 1: drive 20 kilometers to the park center and then hike a 7 – kilometer trail to catch the view of the 1000-year old tree. During the trail, you can discover the Cave of Prehistoric Man where human skeletons and stone tools dated to some 7.500 years old have been found.
    Option 2: Drive 11 kilometers to the forest where you begin walk 1 kilometers on the jungle path to see the ancient tree with forest observation and then explore the Muong former resident site
    Option 3: Reach on foot to visit Mac Lake which is less than 2 kilometers from the central park. Then come back to the national park to observe some species of animals and birds such as green peafowl, jungle fowl, and silver pheasants… 

    What to bring?
    • Hiking shoes for the slippery trail are highly recommended
    • Plenty of bug-repellent is indispensable as you might be attacked by mosquitoes and a lot of biting insects.
    • Long Sleeve and hat are essential. Or else, some disgusting living things like the leech, the worm will stick to you. Be aware, they can suck your blood.
    • Some bottles of water and foods are essential as the walk can be tired There are stone-based tables dotted along the way, which make a picnic meal ideal for the trip.
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    22 Jan 2020
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    Cuong Bach The founder of Journey On Air - The Travel Information Center of Vietnam. Our mission is connecting travelers worldwide to the beauty of the landscape, history, culture and the friendly people in Vietnam.

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