Sitting on a private balcony that juts out from one of Chez Loan’s cliff-side bungalows, one looks out over a small pond. The water, still as paper, is a cool shade of gray-blue. There’s nary a person in sight, though a herd of cows is slowly crossing the nearby road. On the other side of the water, massive cliffs jut into the sky. Further in the distance, lush rice fields add a flash of color to the grays and blues and browns. It is perfectly quiet. Though Hanoi is only a couple of hours north, one feels as though in another world. The air is clean, the surroundings are silent, the bungalow is inviting, and the traveler is blissfully calm as she settles in for a cozy, simple evening at Chez Loan Hotel.
A sweet escape from bustling Hanoi
Hanoi is a terribly exciting place, but that’s not to say it isn’t exhausting. Sometimes, we can all use some fresh air and a night free of motorbike horns and shouting bicycle vendors. Getting to Chez Loan, located in the Tam Coc-Bich Dong area of Ninh Binh Province, is fairly straightforward. One must simply go to Hanoi’s southern bus station, where there are hourly buses heading south to Ninh Binh Bus Station. From there, it’s a quick cab ride to Chez Loan. (Returning to Hanoi is even easier, as Chez Loan arranges a shuttle ride from the hotel back to downtown Hanoi.) Ninh Binh is a short trip away—only a few hours on the bus—but it’s in another world.
Chez Loan is located a few hundred meters from the center of Tam Coc, set slightly back from the mostly-empty road amidst limestone karsts, ponds, and greenery. For about 30 USD per night, or 600,000 VND, you can settle into a quaint bungalow complete with a dangerously comfortable bed, a balcony, a well-maintained bathroom, and colorful local decor.
Plenty to keep you busy in this small town
At first glance, Tam Coc-Bich Dong doesn’t seem to be bursting with activity. Yet, a bit of exploring will go a long way. Chez Loan offers free bicycles to all guests, so hop aboard and get going, whatever the weather. (Ninh Binh Province is arguably more stunning under sheets of rain.) A 10-minute ride away from the direction of town will take you to the Bich Dong Pagoda, where there’s bike parking for under 1 USD, or around 10,000 VND. This stunning pagoda is built onto, or rather into, the side of a cliff, with some parts of the complex tucked away in hidden caves. Climb up, up, up the stone staircases that circumvent the towering karst, stopping at the top for a sweeping view of the Ninh Binh countryside.
Another popular activity in the Tam Coc area is a boat ride through rivers and caves, which allows one to get up close and personal with what many refer to as the “Halong Bay of the land,” known as such for its mystical mass of limestone karsts and vast caves. Hop aboard a local’s canoe for a peaceful ride through winding rivers, and get ready to duck as you float through a series of rocky caves. Be sure to ask the Chez Loan staff for advice about where to pick up a boat, as they know the best spots for each season.
Friendly service and great amenities
From the moment travelers step out of their taxi and onto the Chez Loan property, the hotel’s staff is exceptionally welcoming and helpful. Whether they’re providing expert advice or cooking up a tasty local delicacy (try the goat meat!), Chez Loan’s staff makes guests feel right at home. The whole experience at Chez Loan is smooth, from choosing one’s room (this is done upon arrival to give the guest a choice of room level and location) to planning for a day of exploration. Be sure to unwind in the evening with a home-cooked meal and some of Vietnam’s famous rice wine. The hotpot, complete with an assortment of meat and fresh vegetables, is a great bet, and ideal before tucking in for a nice night’s sleep amidst the karsts.
A perfect getaway at the Chez Loan
For a short trip outside of Hanoi’s city limits, Ninh Binh Province provides it all, from beautiful scenery to fresh air and unique local culture. To enjoy a visit in Ninh Binh to the fullest, stay at Chez Loan in Tam Coc-Bich Dong, where the staff, amenities, surroundings, and location will all contribute to a lovely getaway.