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Ninh Binh

Far too few travellers make it to Ninh Bình a mesmerizing area known locally as ‘Halong Bay on Land’ thanks to its magical riverine landscape, with sheer limestone mountains rising up from the paddies. The best way to get a sense of this UNESCO-protected site is by taking a paddleboat tour along its shimmering rivers, and climbing to the top of its fabled peaks.

See the view from Hang Múa
Get a bird's-eye view of Ninh Bình at Hang Múa, where 500 steps have been dramatically carved into the steep face of a mountain. At the top, a lookout points offers a vista across the Tràng An Scenic Landscape Complex, where the river winds lazily among paddies, hemmed up by limestone outcrops. If you still have energy left, embark on another climb to the awe-inspiring lookout at Bích Dong Pagoda.

Take a sampan tour 
At the Tam Coc boat dock, board one of the waiting green sampans. Each one is guided by a boat person who rows with their feet, not their hands. You'll be expertly guided through the landscape and into caves barely tall enough to allow these vessels to pass. If one boat trip isn't enough, head to Tràng An where two more mesmerizing river journeys await. 

Visit the ancient capital 
Today the capital of Vietnam is Hanoi, but in the past that honour was held by Hoa Lu. This small ancient city served as Vietnam’s politcal centre in the 10th and 11th centuries. Today, it’s a good place to get a history fix at two impressive restored pagodas.

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