Nam Dinh to Ninh Binh (Tam Coc) – 40km
For information on cycling to Tam Coc scroll down half way
Brief : Take a ‘quieter’ road, QL38B - beautiful remote villages offering eating and drinking options. Take one of the available left roads to rejoin the hwy QL10 to ride into Ninh Binh. Flat and reasonably well surfaced. Traffic consisting of mainly motorbikes.
Ninh Binh hosts the incredible wonder of Tam Coc, also known as the Halong Bay on land. It has fantastic scenery of rivers, pagodas and paddyfields. The opportunity to hike and bike up and around the stunning geography is breathtaking. Tam Coc is the main attraction for this city, and there isn’t really much else to see despite this. The local population have caught onto to this popularity and there is plenty of opportunity for someone to take their share from naive tourists... have a look at the trouble we got into...
We were on the road as soon as the sun came up, keen to arrive at our destination early enough to sort out transportion and to see Tam Coc in one day. Taking the QL38B out of Nam Dinh, we were joining the rushhour traffic. Fortunately though, this seemed to be an unofficial two-wheel highway, with only the occasional delivery truck passing by.
We ate at one of the several roadside restaurants and made good pace on the flat road. There is several options to turn off onto the QL10 for Ninh Binh, and we impatiently took TL485. However you could carry on until you meet the river, leaving you with a shorter distance on the main hwy but adding on a few more kms.
On arriving at the QL10, turn right - heading south west, to finish the remaining kilometres to Ninh Binh. However these few kms were far more exhausting with the constant blaring of horns deafening us. Riding over a large bridge (river: Song Day) you will enter the outskirts of Ninh Binh.
For Directions getting to Tam Coc
From here follow the QL38B, then join the QL1A. Continue south on the west side of the canal (cross the canal here for bus and train stations). Click on the button at the top of the page for information on this.
Follow the QL1A for 4km before arriving at a roundabout.
Turning right on the roundabout, you will cycle down a flat road, with limestone pinnacles slowly coming into sight. You will also pass a few restaurants either side of the road, keep heading straight and you may be stopped by a parking attendant in a box. They will ask you to pay to leave your bikes here and continue on by foot. However, the cycling around is gorgeous, so simply reply « we are staying in a hotel just up there ». They will let you pass and then you will come into the main drag of tourist souvenirs, restaurants ect. We asked a hostel if we could leave our baggage there for the day and pay for a drink in their bar later. Doing this, we were free to get off the bikes and hike sections within the park, without worrying about our luggage.
We hiked up past the Bich Dong pagoda, to the peak of a pinnacle which presented a jaw dropping 360 degree view of the surroundings. We then zigzaged around the small roads in the park, and finished the day with a couple of cold cans of beer, watching the sun fall behind a pinnacle. This spot is just to the right of the main boat ticket office, follow the river round until you are far away from the crowds for a bit of unspoilt scenery.
From here we then rode back into the city at dusk along the same road. It can be fairly busy with rushhour traffic so make sure to have lights - or leave before sunset.
We had decided that with only a short visa and plenty of kms to do, we would need to skip a small section of the coast. We had heard the next part had less to see, so regrettably we chose to sacrifice this part. We took public transport from Ninh Binh to Hue. However it wasn’t as easy as expected… have a look at what went wrong on the button at the top of the page. Or return back to Vietnam homepage for our next day of riding.