Ninh Binh is a quiet town, doesn't have much to offer, apart from the cute name and the countryside. Most backpackers don't stop here, but I'm glad we did. The surroundings and Tam Coc (Three Caves) are fantastic! We rented a bike and rode (along the highway) to where the boatrides start. Tam Coc is similar to Halong bay, the same rocks and caves, but it's sweet water, and along the river farmers live where they grow rice, the green gold of Vietnam. We see a Kingfisher bird dive into the water right beside our boat, goats jumping around on the steep rocks (they don't know yet that they'll be hunted soon for the local speciality: wild goat pancakes), many many ducks paddeling around through the plant filled water (they too will become one of the local specialties), women floating around in their little boats selling goods and of course the 3 caves. All together it makes for a very peaceful afternoon. On the way back our guide starts peddeling with her feet, because her arms are tired, which is quite a funny sight.
Back on land we cycle more through the countryside back towards our hotel, everywhere are waterbuffalo and ricepaddies, we're glad to be here!
We booked our hotel through hostelworld.com, a site I would recommend to all travelers! A nice thing what they do, is that after your stay, hostelworld.com sends you a survey to fill out about the hotel. The hotel in Ninh Binh was very nice, helpful, clean, all positive. I got confused though, after staying at so many hostels, and all those different names (that to me all sound the same after a while), that I sent a wrong review about the wrong hostel. Not very good if you rely on reviews for people to choose your accomodation. This is what they answered:
"If that review can't be changed, that is the worst problem for our property. My director is very unhappy and he said if that is the true, all of staff will be stopped working. So please help me to change it if you can do."
Oops, I almost cost these people their jobs.... I did manage to change it in the end though (to the hotel that deserved it).