#2403 – Ninh Binh


Posts in the 2020 Southeast Asia Spring Trip series:
1. Introduction
2. Part I: KLM Business Class Boeing 777-300ER Amsterdam to Jakarta
3. Part II: Yogyakarta
4. Part III: Singapore
5. Part IV: Travel Drama to Hanoi
6. Part V: Hanoi
7. Part VI: Ninh Binh
8. Part VII: Vietnam Airlines Business Class Airbus A350-900 Hanoi to Paris

Because I stayed for four nights in Hanoi, I had the time to go on a two days one night tour somewhere in the Vietnamese countryside. And Hanoi was nice because it was surrounded by many interesting countryside destinations within reach!Β But because I had time to only go on one trip, I decided to choose the most well-known one: Halong Bay. So on my first morning in Hanoi, I booked a two days one night tour to Halong Bay via my hotel. It was really convenient!

But upon returning to my hotel that evening after my dinner, the receptionist called me and told me the news that Halong Bay had just been closed by the Vietnamese government because several tourists were tested positive with the coronavirus there! 😱 So were were discussing some alternatives and she suggested me to, instead, take a tour to Ninh Binh. Prior to this trip, I was actually recommended to go to Ninh Binh, and so it was an easy decision for me to make (Beside, I didn’t want to just stay in Hanoi, haha). So to Ninh Binh I went to instead!

The Ninh Binh Tour

I was the first to get picked up

I got up early the next morning and was ready by around 7 AM. I was the first person in my tour group to get picked up this morning at around 7:30 AM. So first we went around the Hanoi Old Quarter picking up the others, a group of four friends from Spain, a couple from Portugal, and a couple from Australia.

Our first destination today in Ninh Binh was Trang An, where it would take us around 2 hours from Hanoi. Due to the coronavirus, Trang An had a “must wear a mask” policy, so our guide ordered some (one for each of us) online and got them delivered on the highway, lol πŸ˜† . We made a quick stop for rest along the way at a gift stop, which was called “Tin Tin Au Vietnam” (Tintin in Vietnam in French, indeed we could still see the French influence in Vietnam these days).

Gift shop in Vietnam

About half an hour later, we reached an area with a lot of limestone mountains, and not long after we arrived at Trang An. So we put our masks on, got off our van, and entered the site. There was a body temperature upon entering the site, btw, and hand sanitizer was available too, haha.

Trang An

Trang An was a scenic autogenic karst water system with many river caves. So naturally the site provided boat tours for visitors, manually rowed by a boat-person (Extra rows were available on board too so visitors could also row if they wanted to). As we were a group of nine people, three boats were assigned for us and I shared my boat with the Portuguese couple.

The boats in Trang An

Trang An was also known as the “Halong Bay on land”, and indeed I could see why! The limestone mountains and water surely made it look like so (Not that I have been to Halong Bay, I base my statement here on Halong Bay pictures I have seen, haha πŸ˜† ). In short, it was stunning indeed! One detail which made Tran An so special was the several Vietnamese temples located at the site. It made the view, in my opinion, even more majestic!

Trang An
Trang An in Ninh Binh

We passed through four caves in total, three of which were quite long, and low too where at one point our boat-woman tapped me on my back as I was busy taking pictures, because she was worried me head would hit one of the stalactites, haha. In my defense, I was aware of all the stalactites though and was timing my photo taking based on it πŸ˜› .

Entering a river cave in Trang An

The area of Trang An was quite large, and especially because the boats were manually rowed, it took about two hours to complete the route. On one hand this was nice as the tour felt really laid back and, hence, relaxing. On the other hand, the seat on the boat was basically only a piece of metal with a (thin) mat on it, so two hours were a little too much for my butt, haha πŸ˜› .

Trang An selfie during the time of coronavirus

From Trang An, we were taken to a restaurant for our lunch. The menu had been chosen for us so we would only need to order our own drink (which wasn’t included in the tour, apparently). Anyway we were served several different Vietnamese dishes (in abundant quantity), which all were good!

A Vietnamese lunch

After lunch, our itinerary led us to the Hang Mua Peak, where we could hike to the top of one of the limestone mountains to get a scenic view of Ninh Binh! Our tour guide mentioned that the mountain we would climb actually had two peaks. We had the time to climb to both if we would like to, but if we chose to visit only one, we told us to go to the “left” when the stairs path split about halfway to the top. Alrighty then…

Hang Mua, Ninh Binh

We had to walk through a quite beautiful park from where we parked to the bottom of the mountain, where we were greeted with status of Tong Sam Cong and co from Journey to the West! Haha πŸ˜› . Anyway, to climb the mountain we did next!

Journey to the West in Vietnam

In terms of the number of steps, Hang Mua “only” had like 500 steps. However, the nature of the limestone mountain actually made each step really steep which actually posed more of a challenge than the number of steps itself, haha. But the view made it really worth it, though. It was stunning!

Ninh Binh
Hang Mua in Ninh Binh

Following my tour guide’s recommendation, I first took the left turn when the stairs split about halfway to the top. This led me to the higher of the two peaks, where at the top a small Kwan In temple was waiting. There was a dragon statue at the rock formation but it was quite difficult to reach (plus it was quite crowded too at the time, haha). Anyway, I rested for a little bit at the top and enjoyed the amazing view.

I reached the peak!

As it turned out, my tour guide was correct as I still had plenty of time left. So I walked down to check out the other peak. The stairs to the lower peak were narrower, and it led me to a small pagoda at the top.

A small pagoda at the lower peak of Hang Mua

So yeah, in my opinion, Hang Mua Mountain is a must to visit if you are going to Ninh Binh!

From there, the tour guide took me and the four Spanish friends group to our homestay for the night, as the other four apparently only join the tour for one day. The homestay was located quite in the middle of nowhere, though, haha. We first had to navigate through a series of small roads through the mountains and rice fields, and were eventually picked up by the homestay owner.

The homestay in Ninh Binh

The family-run homestay turned out to be nice, which even had a swimming pool too! We were assigned to our rooms, which were quite basic and to me felt like rooms at hotels in the likes of Kaliurang or Tawang Mangu in Central Java, haha. But this in combination with its “secluded” location made the stay memorable, actually! πŸ˜€

Look at this! I was staying for the night here!

Our agenda was then a lot of free time until the next morning, where we could rest and relax, and enjoy our stay. Dinner and breakfast were provided by our nice hosts, and it gave the chance for us to get to know each other.

Springrolls because Vietnam

The next morning, our guide for the day (a different person from our first day’s guide) picked us up at the hotel at around 9 AM. Our agenda today was to cycle around the area to, mainly, visit two ancient temples. Our hotel provided the bikes and I chose one, which looked old but was sturdy enough for the ride today, haha.

My bike today

After we were all ready, our bike tour started. Our guide took us through mazes of small roads through the village to get to the street. The view on our way to our first destination was beautiful, btw, rice fields surrounded by limestone mountains. It felt like we were in the setting of Dragon Ball! Of course we stopped for a while for some pictures, haha.

Ninh Binh
Biking in Ninh Binh

Our first destination today was the Bich Dong Pagoda. Unfortunately due to coronavirus, all sites in Ninh Binh were also closed today. So we could only see the pagoda from the outside. Our guide took us through a small path by the pagoda’s side to get to a point a bit up, where the view was also beautiful.

Bich Dong Pagoda

From Bich Dong Pagoda, we biked to the Thai Vi Temple. Again, the temple was closed but the guard told us he would let us in if we gave him 10,000 dong each, lol πŸ˜† . So we did, of course, haha πŸ˜› . It was nice to at least be able to see the inside of a Vietnamese temple!

The Thai Vi Temple

Our guide’s service ended here and we said goodbye to her. As we still had some time, we went to a restaurant to have some drinks. About an hour later, our guide called me asking where we were, as our hotel had been waiting for us for our lunch! Haha πŸ˜€ . And so after finishing our drink, we went back to our hotel and have our delicious lunch. Speaking of the lunch, I really liked this Vietnamese dish called chao tom! πŸ˜€

Chao Tom, my new favorite Vietnamese dish

After lunch, we packed our stuffs. And at 2 PM, a driver picked us up to bring us back to Hanoi. About two hours later, we arrived at the city. First, our driver dropped my four new Spanish friends at their hotel where we said goodbye, who would continue their trip to Hue. And then he dropped me off at my hotel.

And here my two days and one night trip to Ninh Binh ended, with great memories! πŸ˜€



Posting-posting dalam seri Perjalanan Musim Semi 2020 ke Asia Tenggara:
1. Introduction
2. Part I: KLM Business Class Boeing 777-300ER Amsterdam to Jakarta
3. Part II: Yogyakarta
4. Part III: Singapore
5. Part IV: Travel Drama to Hanoi
6. Part V: Hanoi
7. Part VI: Ninh Binh
8. Part VII: Vietnam Airlines Business Class Airbus A350-900 Hanoi to Paris

Karena aku memiliki empat malam di Hanoi, artinya aku memiliki waktu untuk pergi dalam satu perjalanan tur dua hari satu malam ke suatu tempat di luar kota Hanoi. Dan Hanoi asyik untuk ini karena kotanya dikelilingi oleh banyak destinasi alam menarik dengan jarak tempuh yang tidak jauh! Tapi karena aku hanya memiliki waktu untuk satu perjalanan, jelas aku memilih tempat tujuan yang paling terkenal: Halong Bay. Jadilah di pagi hari pertamaku di Hanoi, aku mem-booking tur dua hari satu malam ke Halong Bay melalui hotelku. Praktis sekali deh!

Tapi ketika pulang ke hotel di malam harinya setelah makan malam, resepsionis hotel memanggilku dan memberi-tahuku bahwa Halong Bay baru saja ditutup oleh pemerintah Vietnam karena ada beberapa turis yang terdeteksi positif terkena virus korona di sana! 😱 Jadilah kami mendiskusikan beberapa alternatif dan ia menyarankan aku untuk mengambil tur ke Ninh Binh. Kebetulan sebelum berangkat, aku sebenarnya direkomendasikan untuk pergi ke Ninh Binh sehingga ini menjadi keputusan yang mudah banget (Di samping aku malas juga sih kalau cuma di Hanoi saja, haha). Jadilah aku perginya ke Ninh Binh!

Tur Ninh Binh

Aku adalah yang pertama dijemput

Aku bangun pagi keesokan harinya dan sudah siap sekitar jam 7 pagi. Aku adalah orang pertama di grup turku kali ini yang dijemput, yaitu sekitar jam 7:30 pagi. Makanya pertama-tama kami berkeliling Old Quarter Hanoi dulu untuk menjemput yang lain, satu grup empat teman dari Spanyol, satu pasangan dari Portugal, dan satu pasangan dari Australia.

Tujuan pertama hari ini di Ninh Binh adalah Trang An, dimana membutuhkan waktu sekitar 2 jam untuk mencapainya dari Hanoi. Karena virus korona, Trang An memiliki peraturan “wajib mengenakan masker”, jadilah guide kami memesan masker untuk kami semua online. Lucunya, maskernya ini diantarkan di jalan tol dong, hahaha πŸ˜† . Kami berhenti sebentar di sebuah toko oleh-oleh yang bernama “Tin Tin Au Vietnam” (Tintin di Vietnam dalam bahasa Prancis. Btw pengaruh Prancis memang masih terlihat di Vietnam sekarang ini).

Toko oleh-oleh di Vietnam

Sekitar setengah jam kemudian, kami mencapai area dengan banyak gunung-gunung kapur, dan tak lama setelahnya kami tiba di Trang An. Jadilah kami semua memakai masker, turun dari mobil van, dan memasukinya. Oh iya ada pengecekan suhu tubuh loh ketika masuk, dan hand sanitizer juga banyak tersedia, haha.

Trang An

Trang An adalah sistem perairan karst otogenik dengan banyak gua-gua sungai. Makanya untuk menikmatinya, pengunjung harus menaiki kapal dayung yang didayung manual oleh seorang petugas (Ada dayung ekstra di kapal jadi kalau mau pengunjung juga bisa ikut mendayung). Karena kami bersembilan, kami diberikan tiga kapal dan aku satu kapal dengan pasangan dari Portugal.

Kapal-kapal di Trang An

Trang An juga dikenal dengan sebutan “Halong Bay on land“, dan memang aku bisa melihat sendiri mengapa! Pegunungan kapur dan airnya memang membuatnya nampak demikian (Iya sih aku belum pernah ke Halong Bay, tapi berdasarkan foto-foto yang sudah kulihat ya begitu deh, haha πŸ˜† ). Singkatnya, tempat ini memang bagus banget! Satu detail yang membuat Trang An adalah keberadaan beberapa kuil Vietnam di sana. Bagiku, ini membuat pemandangannya menjadi lebih wow lagi!

Trang An
Trang An di Ninh Binh

Kami melewati empat gua totalnya, yang mana tiga di antaranya cukup panjang, dan juga pendek loh dimana di satu waktu sampai-sampai petugas pendayung kapalku menutul punggungku karena aku sibuk foto-foto, karena ia khawatir kepalaku akan menabrak salah satu stalaktitnya, haha. In my defense, aku menyadari ya posisi-posisi stalaktit di dalam guanya itu dan aku foto-foto kan juga sudah mempertimbangkannya, haha πŸ˜› .

Memasuki sebuah gua di Trang An

Area Trang An ini lumayan luas juga loh, dan karena kapalnya juga didayung manual, kami membutuhkan waktu sekitar dua jam sampai selesai. Di satu sisi ini asyik sih karena turnya terasa santai dan selow gitu. Tapi di sisi lain, kursi di kapalnya pada dasarnya berupa lempeng logam gitu dengan tikar (tipis) di atasnya. Jadi duduk dua jam di situ juga tidak ramah bagi pantatku kan ya, haha πŸ˜› .

Selfie di Trang An selfie di waktu virus korona

Dari Trang An, kami dibawa ke sebuah rumah makan untuk makan siang. Menunya sudah dipilihkan sehingga kami hanya perlu memesan minuman sendiri (yang mana tidak termasuk dalam biaya turnya, ternyata). Anyway, kami disajikan beberapa menu Vietnam (dengan kuantitas yang banyak), dan semuanya enak-enak!

Makan siang Vietnam

Setelah makan siang, kami menuju ke tempat berikutnya yaitu Gunung Hang Mua, dimana kami bisa naik ke atas salah satu gunung kapurnya untuk mendapatkan pemandangan Ninh Binh yang keren banget! Guide kami menyebutkan bahwa gunung yang akan kami daki sebenarnya memiliki dua puncak. Kami memiliki waktu untuk mengunjungi keduanya jika kami mau. Namun kalau cuma mau memilih salah satu saja, ia menyarankan untuk mengambil jalan ke “kiri” ketika jalan naiknya bercabang di tengah jalan. Oke deh…

Hang Mua, Ninh Binh

Kami mesti berjalan melewati taman yang lumayan oke dari tempat parkir ke kaki gunungnya, dimana kami disambut oleh rombongannya Tong Sam Cong dari Journey to the West (Kera Sakti) dalam perjalanannya ke barat mencari kitab suci! Haha πŸ˜› . Anyway, waktunya mendaki gunung!

Kera Sakti di Vietnam

Dalam hal banyaknya anak tangga, Hang Mua “hanya” memiliki sekitar 500an langkah saja. Tapi karena gunung-gunung kapur di sana itu lancip-lancip bentuknya, setiap anak tangganya itu terjal/tinggi banget dan ini adalah tantangan yang lebih berat daripada banyak anak tangga itu sendiri, haha. Tapi pemandangannya membuat ini semua worth it banget kok. Bagus banget!

Ninh Binh
Hang Mua di Ninh Binh

Mengikuti saran guide kami, aku pertama-tama mengambil rute ke kiri ketika jalan ke atasnya bercabang dua kira-kira setengah jalan ke atas. Ini mengantarkanku ke puncak yang lebih tinggi, dimana ada kuil kecil Dewi Kwan Im di atasnya. Ada juga patung naga di formasi batu-batuan di atas yang agak cukup sulit untuk dicapai (dan juga ramai banget waktu ini, haha). Anyway, aku beristirahat sejenak di puncak ini dan menikmati pemandangan kece dari Ninh Binh.

Aku sampai di puncak!

Ternyata guide kami benar karena aku masih memiliki banyak waktu tersisa. Jadilah aku turun untuk mengecek puncak yang satunya. Jalan ke puncak yang lebih pendek ini lebih sempit, dan ini membawaku ke sebuah pagoda kecil di atasnya.

Sebuah pagoda kecil di puncak yang lebih rendah di Hang Mua

Jadi begitu deh, menurutku Gunung Hang Mua ini wajib banget dikunjungi kalau pergi ke Ninh Binh!

Dari sana, guide kami mengantarkan aku dan rombongan empat teman dari Spanyol ke homestay tempat kami akan menginap malamnya. Ternyata empat orang lainnya hanya mengikuti tur ini selama satu hari saja (tanpa menginap). Homestay kami berlokasi di tempat terpencil banget loh, haha. Pertama-tama kami harus melewati jalanan-jalanan kecil melalui gunung-gunung dan sawah-sawah. Dan pada akhirnya kami dijemput oleh pemilik homestay.

Homestay di Ninh Binh

Homestay milik satu keluarga ini ternyata oke juga lho, bahkan ada kolam renangnya segala! Kami diberikan kunci kamar tidur kami, yang mana isinya basic sih yang mengingatkanku akan kamar di penginapan-penginapan di Kaliurang atau Tawang Mangu di Jawa Tengah, haha. Tapi ini dikombinasikan dengan lokasinya yang “terpencil” justru membuatnya menjadi berkesan sih! πŸ˜€

Lihat deh! Aku menginap semalam di sini!

Agenda kami adalah waktu bebas sampai keesokan paginya. Jadilah kami bisa beristirahat dan bersantai-santai. Makan malam dan sarapan juga disajikan oleh pemilik homestay, dan kami bisa jadi lebih kenal satu sama lain kan.

Lumpia karena Vietnam

Keesokan paginya, guide kami hari ini (yang mana adalah orang yang berbeda dari sehari sebelumnya) menjemput kami sekitar jam 9 pagi. Agenda kami hari ini adalah bersepeda mengelilingi areanya untuk, secara umum, mengunjungi dua kuil kuno. Homestay kami menyediakan sepedanya dan aku memilih satu, yang mana nampak tua sih tapi masih oke lah untuk dipakai, haha.

Sepedaku hari ini.

Setelah kami semua siap, tur sepeda kami dimulai. Guide kami menuntun kami melalui jalan-jalan desa kecil di sana hingga kami mencapai jalan utama. Pemandangan di perjalanan ke tujuan pertama kami kece banget, btw, sawah-sawah yang dikelilingi oleh pegunungan kapur. Rasanya seperti sedang berada di setting-nya Dragon Ball! Kami berhenti sejeka untuk, jelas, foto-foto dulu, haha.

Ninh Binh
Bersepeda di Ninh Binh

Tujuan pertama kami adalah Pagoda Bich Dong. Sayangnya karena virus korona, semua tempat wisata di Ninh Binh ditutup hari ini. Jadilah kami hanya bisa melihat pagodanya dari luar saja. Guide kami membawa kami melalui sebuah jalan setapak kecil di samping pagodanya yang mengantarkan kami ke suatu tempat agak di atas, dari mana pemandangannya juga bagus.

Pagoda Bich Dong

Dari Pagoda Bich Dong, kami bersepeda ke Kuil Thai Vi. Lagi, kuil ini ditutup tetapi petugasnya berkata kami boleh masuk jika kami memberikan masing-masing 10.000 dong, haha πŸ˜† . Ya udah kami bayar aja lah ya, haha πŸ˜› . Asyik juga untuk setidaknya bisa melihat sisi dalam dari sebuah kuil Vietnam!

Kuil Thai Vi

Layanan guide kami hari ini selesai di sini jadilah kami berpisah. Karena masih ada waktu, kami mampir dulu di sebuah restoran untuk membeli minum dan ngobrol-ngobrol. Sekitar satu jam setelahnya, guide kami meneleponku bertanya posisi kami, karena ternyata kami sudah ditunggu-tunggu oleh orang homestay untuk makan siang! Haha πŸ˜€ . Jadilah setelah kami selesai minum, kami kembali ke homestay untuk makan siang. Ngomongin makan siangnya, aku suka banget masakan Vietnam berikut ini yang bernama chao tom! πŸ˜€

Chao Tom, satu masakan Vietnam favoritku yang baru

Setelah selesai makan siang, kami mengepak barang bawaan kami. Jam 2 siang, seorang sopir menjemput kami untuk kembali ke Hanoi. Sekitar dua jam kemudian, kami tiba kembali di ibukota. Pertama-tama, sopir kami menurunkan empat teman baruku dari Spanyol ini dan kami berpisah di sana, dimana mereka akan melanjutkan liburan mereka ke Hue. Dan kemudian setelahnya aku diantarkan pulang ke hotelku.

Dan di sini perjalanan dua hari satu malamku ke Ninh Binh berakhir, dengan pengalaman yang mengasyikkan! πŸ˜€


11 Comments Add yours

  1. ExParisienne says:

    Chao Tom nya gede kelihatan yums banget..itu udang kan…

    1. zilko says:

      Iya, enak banget! Iya dibuat dari udang πŸ˜€

  2. Yance says:

    wahh bagus juga yaa di Ninh binh…Hangmua….pemandangannya oke banget. chao tomnya bikin ngiler…terus yang digelar di atas daun pisang juga kayaknya enak yaa…makanan vietnam enak2 sih menurut aku…

    1. zilko says:

      Iyaa, Ninh Binh bagus banget memang! πŸ˜€ Betul banget, cocok deh sama makanan Vietnam! Enak-enak! πŸ˜€

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