Everyone addresses this place as the Hang Mua Caves, but to be honest the caves are nothing special. In fact if I had it skip completely, I wouldn’t have missed anything. Even the ones in Thung Nham Bird Park are better IMHO.
The real appeal of this place lies on the temple on top of the mountain. You can see the set of stairs to get there from a distance. It’s a fair climb of almost 500 (!) steps. Yes, it’s exhausting, specially because they are uneven – some are really tiny, others can be made for giants.
But don’t get discouraged. Once you have had this proper workout, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular 360° view over the Tam Coc valley. The views over the countryside and paddy fields are truly amazing. There’s no better place to catch your breath and find your inner zen again. Totally worth the effort, believe me.
Hang Mua – Tips
- Where: 5 km from Tam Coc. The road there is literally between rice paddies. If it feels you’re in the wrong way, you’re not!
- How long: Allow at least 1-2 hours here, depending on your pace.
- How much: The entrance fee is 20,000 dong.
- Tip: No need to say you’ll need water and some good comfy shoes to climb up to the temple. I wouldn’t recommend going up if you see the weather is rainy-ish. There’s not much shelter on the way up and with gloomy weather you probably can’t see much anyway.
Thung Nham Bird Park
During my research about Ninh Binh, I’ve NEVER heard of this place. It was the lovely girl on the reception of our hotel that not only suggested us to go to Thung Nham, but offered to be our guide there!
For those who love nature and an adventurous bird-watching trip, the natural reserve of Thung Nham (Nham Valley) is a must go. Deeply enclosed in the mountains, it’s a place with great natural beauty with many underwater caves and rivers. The Hang But (Buddhist Cave) is one of the largest. With lots of stalactites and stalagmites inside sitting beside an underground river, going inside is quite an adventure.
A total of 150 different animals (beware of the snakes!) and more than 40 species of birds – some of them critically endangered species – can be found in Thung Nham. There are so manny there’s even a place inside dedicated to them – the Bird Park.
We took the boat to watch the birds at dusk, the peak time for foraging birds. Picture a small rowing boat on the mangrove forests, with HUNDREDS of birds hanged on the trees, all wrapped around in a drop dead gorgeous forest. The only noise comes from the birds while the sun is setting in the background. Magical.
I went there knowing absolutely nothing about this place and came back mesmerized (can’t thank you enough Trang!).
Thung Nham Bird Park – Tips
- How to get there: Thung Nham is about 7km from Tam Coc. Head in the direction of Bich Dong Pagoda and turn left on Anna Tham’s Hotel sign. 5km later, you’ll find the ticket booth for the reserve.
- How long: I’d say a minimum of 1 hour, but you can spend a whole afternoon here.
- How much: Entrance fee is normally 100,000 but drops to half after 5pm. There’s a parking fee as well. Once you are inside, you have 2 options to get to the Bird Park: you can either walk (a 1,5km trail, free) or go on a boat ride (30,000 dong).
- Tip: Early morning and late afternoon (around dawn and dusk) is when most birds come to the park. Definitely the best time to visit, specially if it is spring or summer.
To be continued…