At the end of August 2017, IAESTE VIET NAM organized Ninh binh trip to connect all international trainees and IAESTE volunteers, let them discover awesome landscapes and experience cuisine of Ninh Binh- the destinations of nature, culture and history.
Day 1: Ninh binh welcomed us by a cool morning.
I had never visited Ninh Binh, which is one of the most attractive destinations in Vietnam; so I was really excited for this trip. That day, I woke up so early to prepare everything to be ready for the trip. At 6:00 am, I drove my motorbike to Ms. Huong’s house. Surprisingly, the bus driver had already stayed there and was waiting for us. Within over 30 minutes, all trainees were picked up at their offices. One hour later, we stopped at one of the most luxurious and delicious restaurants in Thai Nguyen. “Phở” was served quickly and we happily enjoyed the breakfast together. At 8:00, we started our trip to Ninh Binh with our high expectation.
On the IAESTE Vietnam’s bus, it was full of laughs, talks and funny songs. We already had wonderful time to talk and share with each other about what we had done the previous week, or what we would do the following week. Some people continued talking, while the others listened to music or slept because of the far distance from Thai Nguyen to Ninh Binh.
Suddenly, a heavy rain appeared when we nearly reached the first destination – Phat Diem Church. It is one of fascinating destination for visitors who were interested in exploring Vietnam’s culture & customs. Phat Diem was established in the 19th century. Phat Diem Church differentiates from the others since all parts were made from stone, even the very huge pillars of thousand tons in different sizes. Luckily, we were guided by an enthusiastic Christian tour guide who was very enthusiastic to introduce us about history, and the architecture of this church. We therefore understood more about it.
After that, we went for lunch at a local restaurant which was about 15 kilometer from the church. When we came there, all food were ready on the table. We seemed to be so hungry that we quickly enjoyed the delicious meal without making any sounds. Then, we took a rest until around 2:00 p.m and continued our trip with a full of energy.
In the afternoon, we visited Thung Nham’s Bird Ecology. There was only one word to describe this place: “Awesome”. We did sight- seeing and went to some fruits islands like Guava Island, Star Fruit Island and hundred-year-old-tree. Interestingly, we experienced crossing the river on the ”Bamboo Bridge” which used to be so common in the past in the south of Vietnam where there were big systems of rivers. Next, we visited the most special thing in Thung Nham. It was Bird Island where birds returned and gathered after spending the whole day at other places. It took us an hour on the boat to go there. It was so amazing to see many types of birds flying back and standing at the trees. That was a peaceful and picturesque landscape.
In the late afternoon, we went out, came back to the hostel and had dinner together. It was a big meal with some types of traditional foods in Vietnam (fish soup, boiled chicken, spring rolls). After a long trip, everyone seemed to be so tired and hungry but we still talked and shared some witty stories about each person or the journey we had made together in the daytime. 3 hours went away, unluckily, Ms. Huong said that her grandfather got disease and was at hospital. Then, all dropped in and visited her grandfather at the hospital in Ninh Binh city. It was also the time when we had chance to visit the center of Ninh binh, which was different from other cities. I therefore recognized that each province had its own beauty and reputation. Before coming back Ms.Huong’s house to do “Homestay living”, we stopped at Bia Hoi where we again chatted to each other. This activity connected all of us and motivated us so much.
Day 2: Ninh Binh – 2 well- known places.
We started our second day by having a breakfast at village restaurant. We asked for “Bun Cha”, which was one of famous foods to foreigners visiting Vietnam because of its special tastes. After that, we went to Trang An – World Natural Heritage. Trang An, where the American Director named “Jordan Vogt-Roberts” produced the movie “Kong Skull Island”, is a complex of marvelous mountains, rivers and caves.
We spent 4 hours on the boat and went through many unique caves. Honestly, the more I discovered Trang An, the more surprised I was with the beauty of the wonderful nature which I had never seen before in my life.
The next destination was Hoa Lu Ancient Capital. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, built over 1000 years ago under the Dinh and Le Dynasties, still kept the remaining of ancient fortress. We spent an hour to visit around and then moved to the last place – Bai Dinh Pagoda.
During the time visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda, everyone was less excited because of such too hot weather. However, we made efforts to discover this appealing and large pagoda. An electric bus took us to the Entrance where we saw the map of the whole Pagoda. We were so surprised because it was too big for us to visit on foot. We walked through all the lines of statues and all Pagodas inside. Each one showed its own characteristics.
After 2 hours, we reached the Bell Tower which is the most attractive for us. It had 12 floors and we used elevator to reach the highest floor which was the idealistic place to observe all parts of Bai Dinh. Bai Dinh Pagoda was “picturesque” with gorgeous pagodas inside when being seen from a very high position above. It was a new lease of life and it also was time for us to see the sunset. For me, Bai Dinh Pagoda is a masterpiece of unique architecture, culture and historical value.
At 6.30 pm, we left Bai Dinh Pagoda. Luckily, the helpful driver took us to a local restaurant in Ha Nam, which is next to Ninh Binh, to enjoy special foods there. The shop owner served us with “Bánh Cuốn”, “Bún Cá Rô” and tea made from leaves.
After the dinner, we went back to Thai Nguyen and we reached Thai Nguyen at around 10.30 pm.
Saying “Goodbye” to each other was more difficult than I had thought before. After 2 days spending time together on each journey, we felt really closer to each other.
Time flies. Some of trainees attending the trip to Ninh Binh left Vietnam after finishing the internship here, so we have no chances to see each other more or to visit together any destinations. But the memory of the trip itself lasts forever in our heart and our mind.
And it is my belief that all footsteps we made on every destination in the trip to Ninh Binh will never be faded, no matter how strong the sun and the wind!
By Ms.Lê Thủy – Trainee at IAESTE Viet Nam National Office.