This was potentially our worst experience in Vietnam…
So here is an account of what we believe you should and shouldn’t do when travelling to Ninh Binh 🙂
Getting to Ninh Binh
If you are travelling North to South, from Hanoi for example, you should be fine.
We were travelling from Hue and booked an overnight bus to Ninh Binh.
Advice: do not travel to Ninh Binh from Hue unless you are FULLY prepared
The travel agency we booked the tickets from in Hue is Asia Impression Travel (AIT), in Hue. The lady assured us the bus would stop at the city centre bus station so we booked a hotel by the centre. The travel agent was really nice and helpful. The bus cost 200 000D per person, it had A/C and was pretty full but no one was sleeping in the aisles.
The bus journey was fine but as usual, a bit tiresome. At 5am, we were woken up by the bus people who told us to come to the front of the bus. One of them grabbed my arm and yanked it really hard to tell us to sit down on the floor…asking someone to sit down nicely is just so overrated these days… The bus stopped in the middle of the barely lit highway, nothing around apart from a single taxi that had probably been called by its bus driver friends. They put our bags out and before we could say anything, the bus was gone. We were 8km away from the city.
Pretty angry with myself for not having had the nerve to talk back to the drivers and insist we get dropped in the city center like agreed and paid for, we did not even consider the taxi and started walking. The other tourist that got dropped off with us had a hotel booked in Tam Coc, near Ninh Binh… she started walking too but we were too tired to start conversation and she disappeared pretty soon. I hope she reached her destination without any trouble. After a while in the dark on a barely lit road with Aron telling me horror stories we saw a taxi – a taxi! I got my hand out frantically to call it and stop it. He did not want to put its meter on but we managed to agree on the price in the end.
But our troubles were not over…
He dropped us off at Thành Đạt Hotel, where we could see no sign of life. We had been cautious though, we had emailed them in advance, told them we would arrive really early and they said: no problem, if the room is available, you can go in, if not we will set up beds under the A/C in the reception.
So we wake up the night watcher who gives us boiling water to drink (huh??) takes our passports and shows us to our room. First things first. Where is the A/C remote? Room is boiling! No remote. We go down to ask for the remote. No A/C says the guard. Erm… So we try to explain we need A/C to survive and we booked a room with A/C. He walks off and wakes up who I guess is the owner. The young lady takes a paper out and starts explaining that we need to pay extra for A/C. We explain that we booked a room with A/C, should not have to pay extra and that the room is already pretty expensive. All she does is just take the paper and start writing numbers on it so… we decided to walk to the next nearest hotel (we had seen a few on the road). Aron checks the nearest one on his phone and we both agree booking it online is probably the best to make sure the prices stay the same. We call the hotel to ask them if the room is available and we can come in 10 minutes, they say no problem.
We get to Hoa Bien Hotel 10 minutes later and the hotel is dead, no sign of life. We had to bang on the steel garage door for a good 10 minutes before anyone came… didn’t we just call you to say we would arrive soon?? So anyways, man takes us to a room, saying our room will be ready later. No AC remote but at least there’s a fan… Two hours later, loud banging on our door to wake us and show us to our room, across the corridor. There was no one in it and as far as we could tell ne one had come in to change sheets or anything, so why put us in the other room?? Anyways… The room is nice enough, but again… no A/C remote. We start arguing, this is really pissing us off now. The guy takes his phone and starts insulting us through google translate. Saying how his room is so cheap, we have to pay extra for A/C and he is paying a percentage because we booked online and we have to cancel so that he doesn’t have to pay! Aron, too tired to argue, just cancels the room and asks again for A/C. Guy says no, have to pay extra. So now we can’t even put a review on booking.com! We start to leave. He continues insulting us on google translate (he got his phone to talk to us in English to translate what he wants to tell us!) saying with our attitude we will find nowhere to stay, etc., etc.
So we managed to sleep for a couple of hours, yey!… We check online for a hostel. No way in hell we are going back to a local hotel! The hostel is a bit more expensive but worth it if we don’t have to argue! On our way, we see another taxi, I ask around and the whole family gets up to wake up the driver and see us off, first friendly faces we’ve seen in Ninh Binh! The driver agrees to use the taxi meter and we are on our way.
We get to Go Ninh Binh Hostel, and, one hour and a huuuugggeee breakfast later we get our room, A/C on. Happy us. Sleepy us.