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Ninh Binh vs. Halong

Norfolk, Virginia
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Ninh Binh vs. Halong

My traveling partner and I will be in Hanoi at the beginning of September for five days and have time for a two-day/one-night excursion. Everybody says you can't miss Halong, but it seems the more I read the more Ninh Binh might be a better choice. September being the height of typhoon season is one reason; another is how spoiled by tourism it seems Halong has become. Advice? Is the scenery in Halong Bay on a one night cruise really that much more spectacular than Ninh Binh?

Llanbrynmair...
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1. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

I personally prefer Ninh Binh by a mile as the scenery and attractions are far more diverse, and as long as you avoid Tam Coc (or at least during the period when the day-tour buses from Hanoi descend on it) you'll be rubbing shoulders with few or no other tourists.

Halong Bay is undoubtedly beautiful, but the scenery very quickly becomes samey, the tourists outnumber the locals by a huge margin and the itineraries are pretty regimented.

leicester
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2. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

Its a tough one. Been to both twice and couldn't pick a favourite as we enjoyed our time on each visit. Based on what you have written, it sounds as if you are with a travelling buddy rather than a spouse so you may enjoy NB more as you will no doubt see more than at Halong. Halong is beautiful, the experience of being on a boat overnight was lovely and on the trip we took we didn't see any other tourists for the whole time apart from those on the boat and as we left the port. We went in September and the weather was glorious, though that doesn't mean anything as it changes quickly. We also loved the activities of kayaking,swimming and visiting the floating villages. We stayed for two nights and I could happily have stayed for longer.

NB has more sights to offer, but we did that trip by motorbike with a rider and by car I'm not sure we would have enjoyed it nearly as much so think about how you will get around when there. I'm not struck on NB as a town, others will disagree, but you don't really need to like it as you are not there for the town. I found Trang An far more touristy than the Halong Bay trip but it's all personal preferences. Which ever one you pick you will enjoy it I'm sure. If you want to relax and sit on the sun deck of a boat in amazing scenery, eat nice food and have a few activities thrown in then Halong is perfect weather permitting. If you prefer to be visiting places and seeing different things the NB has loads to offer and the secrecy is more diverse and equally spectacular. In September the colours of the rice fields made for some stunning views. If you opt for NB, look at having a rider and bike to take you around, your hotel can arrange it. It's really inexpensive and adds to the whole experience in my opinion.

Edited: 29 May 2014, 19:34
Rockhampton...
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3. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

We've been to both places.

As mentioned above Halong Bay becomes much of the same thing, loved the kayaking etc but a lot of the time was spent just sitting ( on the boat ) looking at the scenery, my husband especially became bored, he is not a boat person.

Ninh Binh was always interesting, ( as well as being as beautiful ) with a lot of different places to see.

The drive to and from Halong Bay seemed to take forever, Ninh Binh is closer.

At Halong Bay once we got out on the water we left the crowds behind and it was very peaceful.

Norfolk, Virginia
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4. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

Thanks for the excellent advice on pros and cons of each. Tough decision and very much appreciate your input.

nj
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5. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

We also recently went to both Halong Bay and Ninh Binh. For Halong Bay, we chose a smaller boat trip with Indochina Junk, primarily because they cruise in a part of the bay that the other boats do not go to. Therefore, it did not seem touristy at all, the water was clean, and the activities available—kayaking, touring a cave, visiting a floating village—were not crowded. However, it is a long and boring drive there, and yes, if there is even a chance of rough weather, the trip could be cancelled—and this could be at the last minute after you have already made the drive out. It is, however, lovely to be on the water, but you are mostly sitting on the boat.

Ninh Binh has more activities and things to see and the surrounding area is really quite beautiful with the karst formations that you see in Halong Bay. We took a motorcycle trip with Toan (thanks to all the recommendations here on TA), which we loved, it was so much fun and we saw so many interesting areas, as well as had a really great and interesting home stay in Pu Long.

Sydney
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6. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

I took some friends to Halong bay a couple of weeks ago (I had been previously) and they loved the majesty of the bay. In the same breath, I had talked them out of the 2 night cruise and they thanked me profusely afterwards as 2 nights would have bored them to tears(we like a bit of activity:-). We then headed to Ninh binh from Halong wharf and spent 3 nights in town. Absolutely loved it. The town is clean, the people are friendly and the local restaurants are great. I think we saw about 4 tourists in town over the 3 days :-) The day tours with Toan were spectacular to say the least. The winding back tracks through villages, the Karsts and grottoes, the ricefields all seemed surreal. It was probably our highlight in Vietnam. Good luck with your choice.

Mark

Norfolk, Virginia
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7. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

Thanks for all the helpful replies. My partner still really would like to see Halong but is OK with not spending the night. As we arrive Hanoi at noon on a Sunday and depart on Friday at 2 it is going to be a rushed trip. So I have come up with this possible itinerary and would love feedback:

Sun 8/31-Tues 9/2 (holiday) in Hanoi,

Wed - Hanoi-Halong - day cruise - then continue directly to Ninh Binh, arriving that evening. All day Thursday and early Friday morning in Ninh Binh. What time would we need to depart Ninh Binh to make a 2 pm flight out of Hanoi? I am assuming we will need to hire a private car and driver to make efficient use of our time.

Sydney
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8. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

We stayed at the Ngoc anh 2 for 3 nights a few weeks ago, as suggested by TA friends. Outstanding. They also picked us up from Halong (about $90, 3 1/2 hours) then returned us to Hanoi at the end ($65, 2 hours) I think you would need to leave NB by 9.30 am, allowing 2 1/2- 3 hours to airport, then check in time, but this depends on whether you are flying domestic or international.....

Mark

leicester
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9. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

Completely agree with Sheath27. The Ngoc An hotel were really helpful and they offer a good deal to get from Halong to NB. The price of their rooms is so reasonable that it makes the pick up cost far more acceptable overall. They also arranged great days out to us by motorbike with riders in the local area for less than 20dollars a day per person. Highly recommended.

10. Re: Ninh Binh vs. Halong

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