Ninh Binh is a rather dreary, boring highway town, but you can’t beat the countryside roads around it. Either on a rented motorbike, or with a locally arranged guide, you can take in limestone rocks, mountains, cave pagodas, jungle hikes and unique cathedrals. If time’s limited, you can visit Tam Coc and Hoa Lu on a daytrip from Hanoi. See Hanoi/Group Tours.

–> TAM COC & AROUND Boat rides through limestone caves in the ‘Halong Bay of the ricefields’

–> HOA LU & AROUND Walk about the ruins of Vietnam’s 1000-year-old capital

–> CUC PHUONG NATIONAL PARK Self-made jungle hikes, looks at endangered langurs & gibbons, homestays at Mnong villages deep in the jungle

–> PHAT DIEM 19th-century cathedral built to look like a Buddhist pagoda