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Vietnam Travel Guide

Ninh Binh

Tam Coc.

Located 9km south of Ninh Binh, Tam Coc is one of Vietnam's most spectacular sights. A boat can be hired that will take you through the waterways. Vast limestone cliffs rise out of the rice paddies. The area is somewhat similar to Halong Bay, but more accessible and much less touristy. Beware, the floating drink sellers can be very persistent. Most will ask if you would like to buy a drink for the rower. This is usually sold back immediately for half price. Your rower would be happier with a tip when you finish. Apparently rowers earn 45,000 dong per trip. They can usually row with their feet as well as their hands, which makes quite an interest sight. Possibly the best time to go is late afternoon, when its quieter and cooler with more shade. Also the drink sellers will be tiring and might be more prepared to sell you a cold drink cheaper if you need one. Last boats start out about 5.30pm in the summer and 4.30pm in the winter. Its an easy bicycle ride here from Ninh Binh, with no hills. The area around Tam Coc is equally beautiful, and is best viewed from the back of a motorbike or by bicycle. There is also a temple atop one of the hills which provides incredible views. 60,000 dong per person, minimum 2 people per boat.

Trang An Grottoes.

7km away from Ninh Binh, an easy bicycle ride away, Trang An Grottoes is similar to Tam Coc but with many more caves to pass through. Most caves have been widened in order for the boats to pass through and as result their natural beauty has been compromised. The first two caves are the most natural and beautiful but are also tight in places, so watch your head. Lots of concrete structures are being built all over the place and rice paddies are disappearing fast but hopefully this area wont loose its splender. It might be worth bringing a torch in case the power fails and the lights go out, some of the tunnels are quite long and your rower may have forgotten their backup torch, as was the case for the boat in front of us and had to wait for our boat to provide light for them to navigate the last cave.

Cuc Phuong National Park,

This well preserved rainforest is located 45km from Ninh Binh. Near the entrance is the Endangered Primates Rescue Centre. You can only visit the centre with a park guide, which costs another 20,000 dong per person and doesn't take long. There are about 150 primates here being prepared for release back in the wild. Most are from other parts of Vietnam and any releases will be from where they originally came from. There is also a Botanical Garden near the entrance. From the entrance you can drive, motorbike or cycle a further 20km along a densely rainforested paved road, where the road ends. Cycling is probably the most rewarding way to travel this 20km of fairly flat paved road and bicycles can be hired at the park entrance. From the end of the road, there are several forest walks as well as places to eat and a small amount of overnight accommodation. The best chance to see any animals here is at night. Guided night tours for overnight stayers are available. There are other points of interest along the narrow 20km road such as a cave, ancient trees and walking trails. One of the amazing things about this drive is the 1000's upon 1000's of colourful butterflies filling the roadway. Peak time for butterflies apparently is during April and May but in early July there were still 1000's to be seen, more concentrated than in a typical butterfly farm enclosure! 20,000 dong

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