General Information About Ninh Binh Province
Located on the Southern end of the Red River Delta, Ninh Binh is blessed with diverse topography of both mountainous and coastal areas. It can be said that the province contains all the scenic quintessence of whole Vietnam within its relatively small size. Not only that, Ninh Binh represents typical rural villages of Northern region with vast green paddy field, expanding mountains and poetic river that flows to the horizon. Ninh Binh's history is also worth mentioning: the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th century, Ninh Binh is a venue of relics that reflect its 1000 years of history and development.
Location and weather
Ninh Binh is about 95km from Hanoi, or 2.5 hour South by car. The province is surrounded by Hoa Binh and Ha Nam to the North; Nam Dinh to the East and Thanh Hoa to the West and South. Here, the terrain is diverse with mountainous areas in the West and Northwest; and coastal parts in the East and South.
The average temperature is 23.4 Celsius degree and its high humidity, between 80-85%, is typical for tropical monsoon climate. The best time to visit Binh Ninh falls between November to April of the following year when it is in the dry season.
Ninh Binh - Microcosm of Vietnam
The topography of Ninh Binh is favored by the Mother Nature with karst topography fostered through million years that make the province a Ha Long Bay in land with countless primitive caves, valleys, and submerged mountains which all offer stunning sceneries. Furthermore, one may see a microcosm of Vietnam within Ninh Binh thanks to its wide variety of forests, mountains, river and sea; nature conservation area and national park.
The most famous attraction of Ninh Binh is Trang An eco-tourism center which has just been expanded in recent years and soon become famous for a system of caves, valleys and historical relics. With a chain of natural wonders like Tam Coc, Thai Vi Temple, Bich Dong Pagoda, Fairy cave or Sunny Valley; Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist center is regarded as “Nam thiên đệ nhị động” (The second best cave of the South).
For environment and animal lovers, Cuc Phuong National Park with the total area up to 22,000 ha, is a must-see site. Cuc Phuong is the first national park of Vietnam preserving a variety of rare animals and plants.
Another destination tourists may be interested in is submerged Van Long nature reserve, which is the largest conservation area of this kind in the North of Vietnam, with Kenh Ga hot spring and Van Trinh cave and Kem Trong cave.
Ninh Binh - Destination for cultural explorers
Ninh Binh was soon developed as the cultural and political center of Vietnam since the reign of Dinh Tien Hoang King in 968. Thanks to this, the number of ancient vestiges here may overwhelm any other provinces in Vietnam.
The first capital of Vietnam feudal centralism regime and the Dai Co Viet's political, economic and cultural centre Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is undoubtedly the most attractive site where tourists may find thousands of vestiges of palaces, temples, pagodas and tombs related to the three dynasties of Dinh, Le and Ly.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital in Ninh Binh,Vietnam
Alluring tourists by a complex of both ancient and new pagodas is Bai Dinh Pagoda. The site is the Buddhist Center of Vietnam and also the largest pagoda in the South East Asia has recently been listed as top attraction in Vietnam and the region.
One more remarkable attraction of Ninh Binh is Phat Diem Church - the most beautiful church in Vietnam which was built of stone and wood in all 24 year. Beside alluring tourists by its size, the most interesting part of Phat Diem Church is such a center of a religion originated from Western country, is built in Vietnamese architecture.
Ninh Binh’s specialties
Mentioning about Ninh Binh people would immediately think about delicious dishes made from goat, Kim Son wine, eel vermicelli and Cơm Cháy (dried rice).
Among those specialties, Ninh Binh’s goat meat is the most famous and unique one that gourmets may find no other place offering more delicious dishes made from goat in this country. The reason is all goats are fed naturally on limestone Mountains that make their meat more firm than goats in other regions. Those dishes are at their best taste when eating with the local fresh leafs like đing lăng leaf, mơ leaf or sung leaf as additional ingredients.
How to get there
Ninh Binh has a developed traffic system and tourist may get there by motorbike, car or train. The Reunification Express Train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City stops at Ninh Binh Town while motorbikes or cars may easily approach there through Phap Van – Cau Gie Highway for 90km.
Ninh Binh Province Culture and History
Where in Vietnam can you find a convergence of classical, historical values and captivating natural landscape? It is Ninh Binh province, an ideal eco-spot of tourism!
Located as far as 100 kilometers south of Hanoi is Ninh Binh province, the south extreme of the Red River delta. Inside the province is the grandiose Tam Diep Mountain, connecting the North and the South. The province stretches from the Northwest mountainous area to the delta, thus being calleda half mountain half plain area. In particular, Ninh Binh contains 3 main kinds of topography: limestone mountains with fascinating caves & grottos, the delta raised by Red River Silt, and a coastline with the length of 18 kilometers, enlarging the province area by 100m2 per year.
Besides limestone caves and grottos, Ninh Binh is also popular for the first imperial capital of Vietnam, from 968 to 1010 under Dinh, Le and Ly dynasties, which has resulted in its cultural tourism potential. Also, Tam Coc-Bich Dong and Cuc Phuong national park within the province are desirable destinations for tourists. Would you like to visit Ninh Binh? Please be willing to join the following trip;
Hoa Lu, the first imperial capital of Vietnam
The very first meaningful stop-over in Ninh Binh should be Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam from 968 until 1010. Before the year 968, the nation was just a district of China. As time went by, several fightings for independence have occurred, yet none was of a long success until Dinh Bo Linh’s troops rising. In 968, Dinh Bo Linh defeated 12 lords of the district (former Vietnam) and proclaimed to be Emperor. He was the first King of Dinh dynasty (King Dinh Tien Hoang), and named the country Dai Co Viet. Then he set up Hoa Lu, his home country, as the capital of Dai Co Viet. His meaningful success was a great landmark of Vietnam as transferring from a district of China into an truly independent nation.
Dinh dynasty lasted 12 years. Then Le Hoan started 29 years of Le dynasty. In 1009, when Ly Cong Uan became the King, he found an area which had an excellent site and topography, therefore decided to move the capital from Hoa Lu to Dai La citadel, former Hanoi. In 1910, Hoa Lu ended its honored role of being the Nation’s Capital after 42 years. Today, tourists elsewhere come to Hoa Lu for the purpose of involving themselves in a historical and mysterious world of an ancient capital with miraculous palace, mighty citadel, hiding in the grandiose mountain ranges and gentle Hoang Long rivers. This makes a magnificient fairy scenery!
King Dinh Tien Hoang’s Temple
It’s now time to pay a visit to the famous King of Vietnam’s temple – King Dinh Tien Hoang’s. The temple is located in Truong Yen village, Truong Yen commune, Hoa Lu town, in a garden of 5 hectares wide. It faces the East, and stands in front of Ma Yen Mount, where King Dinh Tien Hoang’s tomb was located.
The temple was built in the 17th century, with a special architecture, the interior of which had an “I letter” shape, surrounded by a square land. Now you are standing at the 3-class mid-noon gate. You can go on to the next one, seeing a dragon bed and getting the second gate. Passing through one more gate and walking along the holy way will lead to the main house. In the middle of the house is one more stone dragon-bed, which is 1.8m long and 1.4m wide. Looking at the bed surface you can easily find sculptured dragon, shrimps, fishes, rats images which are of deep delicateness and skill.
This main house has 3 parts. The first one is the worshipping place with 5 rooms. The second is an incense burning room where they worshiped 4 important mandarins under Dinh dynasty. The third main part, the most important one, is separated to the second by a high door. Here you can witness there worshipping King Dinh Tien Hoang and his three sons.
You may have to admit that the temple is an original architectural work of art full of folk sculptures! It attracts tourists for so many valuable relics hidden in thick bricks, tilts, Buddhist prayer-book pillars, and more importantly its meaningful history of the first ancient capital of Vietnam.
Nearby you can find the Tomb of King Dinh Tien Hoang, which was situated on Ma Yen Mount, in front of his Temple. “Ma yen” means “back of a horse”, as seen from a far distance, it has the shape of a back of a horse. The tomb is in the sagging down post of the horse’s back. To reach up to the tomb, visitors must pass 150 rock steps. The tomb was built in 1840, under Ming Mang King reign.
Phat Diem Cathedral – symbol of a rich religious life
If you are a Catholic, a famous Cathedral for visiting in Ninh Binh is Phat Diem Cathedral, which was built between 1875 and 1899 with four roofs and six sets of iron wooden pillars, and consists of a network of ponds, lakes, churches, and artificial caves. On both sides of the church are four smaller churches of different styles. In the area, the rice paddies are peppered with stone churches. But, unlike these structures, as built by Europeans and resembling typical churches of the era, Phat Diem Cathedral was designed by a Vietnamese priest, known as Father Sau. Father Sau rallied the local population to build the cathedral, five side chapels, three artificial grottoes, an artificial lake and a bell tower. Phat Diem Cathedral seems to have changed very little since Graham Greene described its gigantic pillars formed out of single trees and the scarlet lacquer work of the altar. Indeed, with its multi tiered, curling roofs and its 48 lime-wood columns - (the largest of which weigh seven tones), Phat Diem is a far cry from a European cathedral. Stone relief angels overlook carved dragons and the cathedral's two-tone bell is accompanied by a giant brass gong.
Whoever spending a few minutes inside the Cathedral, particularly the Stone Church, can easily feel the specially cool atmosphere and a classical religious space!
Tam Coc – Bich Dong - “South second nicest grotto”
Tam Coc – Bich Dong is called “A terrestrial Ha Long Bay”, or the “South second nicest grotto” (to Huong Tich) for its poetic and inspirational natural scenery of beauty. It is a grandiose comlex of Bich Dong pagoda and Tam Coc grotto. King Le Canh Hung ever said: “This is “the South second nicest grotto of Vietnam, after the Huong Tich Grotto in Ha Tay province”. Its pristine natural beauty together with a simple but nice countryside landscape, and a sacred spiritual life have converged into a fascinating and attractive Tam Coc-Bich Dong to numerous tourists.
These days, more and more people in the world have been coming here in various types of tours: ecological tours, culture, history, festival tours (such as Thai Vi Temple, Bich Dong pagoda, Linh Coc pagoda, Thien Huong Cave, Fairy Cave.. festivals). Noone could deny that Tam Coc-Bich Dong has become a legend of rivers and mountains, a green, pure, and safe destination for every traveller.
Cuc Phuong National Park
Ninh Binh boasts Cuc Phuong National Park, the largest & first national park of Vietnam, and one of the most important sites for biodiversity within the country. It is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Inhabitants of the park include 97 species of mammals, most notable are the endangered langurs; 300 species of birds; 36 reptilian species; 17 species of amphibians; 11 species of fish; 2,000 species of vascular plants, and thousands of species of insects, most of whom do not bite. A number of species in the park are listed on Vietnam Red Book of endangered species.
Exploration of Cuc Phuong's many limestone caves makes a rewarding excursion. The cave' include Thang Khuyet Cave, Con Moong Cave, Pho Ma Cave, and Nguoi Xua Cave and the Cave of Prehistoric Man (Dong Nguoi Xua). The Botanical Garden located near the park’s headquarters is good place to take a stroll and get an introduction to the region’s flora. Early in the morning you can hear birds singing, accompanied by perhaps a gibbon or two. The Endangered Primate Rescue Center is an important rehabilitation center for Vietnam's critically endangered and majestic primates. Langurs, loris, and gibbon species are housed at the center and include the critically endangered Delacour's Langur, Golden-Headed Langur, Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey and Black Crested Gibbon.
Tourists coming to Ninh Binh are mostly eager for paying a visit to Cuc Phuong for exploring an pure ecological space of the locality!
For centuries, the province has undergone thousands of changes in terms of nature and society, yet the ancient historical relics, the natural painting of miraculous caves, grottos covered with karst, shiny stalactites, & stalacmites, and beautiful rivers still remain pristine and captivating!