North Central Vietnam

Thai Binh - Ninh Binh - Around Ninh Binh - Phat Dien - Cuc Phuong National Park Vinh - Around Vinh - Phong Nha Cave - Dong Hoi


IDD Code: (+84) 30
Ninh Binh has the pace of a large country town - a welcome respite if you've just escaped the bustle of Hanoi. Apart from the scrum of guesthouse owners greeting the trains, and the charming chorus of 'Hello, how are you' from the local children, you'll largely be left alone as you wander the quiet streets. The surrounding countryside is gorgeous. confirming all the postcard fantasies of what Vietnam has to offer - water buffalos, golden green rice paddies, majestic limestone for mations and more. There are plenty of sights in the vicinity to justify a stay of several days. The only place of interest in the town itself is a large modern east-meets-west Cathedral (Đ Hoang Hoa Tham) near the train station The best of backpacker culture can be experienced here. While not a difficult place to visit, Ninh Binh seems to attract interestingb travellers with a zest for new experiences. It’s a great place to make travel buddies.
Internet cafes are spread around town, with a cluster on Đ Luong Van Tuy, west of D Tran Hung Dao (per hour 5000d). Incombank (tell: 872 675; Đ Tran Hung Dao) Deals with cash, travellers cheques and most plastic and has an ATM outside. Hospital (tell: 871 152; So 2 Đ Tran Hung Dao; Main post office (Đ Tran Hung Dao)

Sleeping & Eating
Ninh Binh hoteliers have a reputation for friendliness and good service, making a stay smoother than you might expect for a town. Of this size. Most can make tour and transport arrangements. Generally all but the cheapest rooms have air-con, but you can save a few bucks if you forgo it. The town doesn’t have much in the way of restaurants and most travellers tend to eat at their hotel, many of which serve excellent food. Goat meat is a local speciality - delicious wrapped with herbs in fresh rice paper.
Ourpick Thanhthuy's Guest House & New Hotel ( 128 Đ Le Hong Phong; r guest house US$5-8, hotel US$12;The central courtyard is a great place to meet other travellers over a meal (dishes 15,000 ti40,000d) and a drink. The New Hotel is very comfortable, set back from the street, while the guesthouse-is basic and clean, with shared bathrooms and no air-con. The owner speaks excellent English and German, and has a crew of safe drivers available for local tours,
Queen Mini Hotel (21 Đ HoangHoa Tham;rUS$3T5;Right by the station, the tiny fan rooms are the cheap-est in town.
Xuan Hoa Hotel (31Đ pho MinhKhai;rUSSS-15; Another social place with charming owners and staff tins is a firm favourite. The rooms are comfortable and clean and the food excellent. Motorbike and bicycle rentals and day trips can be arranged.
Thanh Binh Hotel (31 Đ Luong Van Tuy;r US$6-18; Very friendly, nice and new, the lower floors have larger rooms, but there are some cheapies upstairs. Breakfast is included in the price.
Bini Hotel (tell/fax 882 809; 2 Đ Hai Thuong Lan Ong; r US$10;This is an attractive new family run hotel with large, clean rooms.
Thuy Anh Hotel ( 55A Đ Truong Han Sieu; r USS7-40; Quite the smartest operation in town The old wing offers spotless rooms of varying shapes and sizes, while the slick new wing, complete with lift, pulls in the tour groups. There's a good restaurant (dishes 20,000 to 60,000d ) downstairs and a rooftop bar for drinkers
Getting There & Away
The bus station in Ninh Binh is located neat the Lirn Bridge, just below the overpass to Phat Diem. Regular public buses leave almost hourly for the Giap Bat bus station in Hanoi (28,000d, 21/2 hours, 93km). Ninh Binh, is also a stop for open-tour buses between Hanoi (US$4, two hours) and Hue (US$6, 10 hours), which drop off and pick up passengers at some of the hotels. Ninh Binh's train station (tell: 673 619; 1Đ Hoang HoaTham) is a scheduled stop tor Reunification Express trains, with destinations including Hanoi (40,000d, two to 21/2 hours, four daily), Thanh Hoa (20,000d, one to 11/2 hours, three daily) and Hue (205,000d, 121/2 to 131/2 hours, three daily). Travelling distances to the nearest major towns are 93km to Hanoi, 60km to Thanh Hoa and 49km to Thai Binh.
Getting Around
Bikes and motorbikes (with or without drivers) can be hired from most hotels Bicycle hire usually only costs around US$1 to US$2 per day, while motorbikes are around US$5 to US$6. A driver's rates will depend on distance