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Ninh Binh

Introduction
The province of Ninh Binh is well-known for its stunning scenery of imposing limestone outcrops and tranquil meandering rivers. The countryside surrounding the town makes for an ideal escape from the capital city Hanoi, a little over 100kms to the north.

And yet it is in the surrounding countryside with its small villages and hamlets where the real charm of Ninh Binh is to be found. The rural communities are linked by single lane roads and tracks often accessible only by two-wheeled transport, and indeed the best and most rewarding way to explore this area is by bicycle. The roads are quiet and free of large vehicles and therefore safe for the curious cyclist. The villagers are some of the friendliest one will meet in all of Vietnam and the views are simply captivating. Of all the routes available the most spectacular is a dyke road. The dyke is raised about 3-4 meters above the surrounding countryside providing the visitor with excellent panoramic views of the villages on one side and the soaring limestone mountains on the other.

Aside from the scenic attractions there are other hidden delights down the winding country paths. Ancient pagodas litter the area as do caves and grottoes many of which serve as shrines to the pantheon of Buddhist and Confucian deities.

To discover more about the scenery for which Ninh Binh is famous a ride on a traditional sampan or rowboat is highly recommended. These small vessels snake their way through a dramatic landscape of grey-green cliffs which tower over the water below. High above on the almost-sheer slopes mountain goats balance precariously feeding on the vegetation. The boats weave their way through the reeds and the only sound one hears is the occasional kingfisher chirping and the soothing rhythmic splash of the paddles. The skilled oarswomen also navigate visitors through a series of limestone caves and tunnels, each one of which opens out on to another stretch of calm water.