TL;DR: If you’re on the fence about this tour, do it.
My mom and I did the full day Ninh Binh tour with Hanoi Backstreet Tours on May 18, 2022. Our guide was Tam. He’s enthusiastic and you can tell he really enjoys what he does. The driver, Trung didn’t speak English but he smiled with kind eyes, and he drove us safely in his new car with much appreciated new AC.
I made a great choice in breaking up my time in Hanoi to check out Ninh Binh. The rock formations really make it look like beautiful Halong Bay on land, and I couldn’t have covered on my own everything the tour covered in one jam packed day.
I liked that I could sit back and enjoy Ninh Binh on the tour. Tam took great pictures for us, and he answered our many questions.
Walking up the steps at Mua Cave, you break a nice sweat and get a gorgeous view from up top. Tam Coc is where you take a row boat that a local rows with their feet for a long stretch. The guide said tipping the rower (probably a full-time farmer) about $3-5 USD is appreciated, so take some VND. Cruising on the motorbike was nice. It included a stop at Thai Vi temple where an older gentleman played two traditional instruments, one with a loud amplifier and the second a bamboo flute. My mom liked the flute. The musician may have expected tip.
Along with the wonderful guide and driver, I was impressed by the food. Only lunch is included, so eat breakfast on your own as needed. Lunch was a set meal and the different dishes kept coming out like at a Chinese restaurant. Our food included bass cooked with turmeric, mountain goat, chicken cooked with turmeric, papaya salad, egg rolls, big bowel of rice, rice paper for dry rolls (not spring rolls), fried tofu in a light tomato sauce, and a fresh fruit plate. Yum! I ate so much that I skipped dinner.
Even though we napped on the drive to and from Ninh Binh, we were pleasantly tired from all of the tour’s activities. With hindsight, would I do this tour again? Definitely. It was a memorable day.
Tam: we were lucky to have had you as our guide. Thank you. We wish you all the best!