Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh-What to expect.
Hoa Lu is part of the Ninh Binh Province, and was the ancient capital of Vietnam.
In 968, King of Dai Co Vet established Hoa Lu as his capital, and it remained so for 42 years. After which the Le dynasty used it as their capital followed by the Ly dynasty. The king of the Ly Dynasty after ruling from Hoa Lu for a year, transferred his capital to Hanoi.
The architecture in Hoa Lu is a remnant of its once glorious past. There are palaces, temples, and pagodas here which are well worth a visit for history & architecture buffs.
Hoa Lu is serenley beautiful with lush towering mountains which form the backdrop to the temples, rice fields where locals still farm with bulls, and serene lakes to relax at.
I would have liked to spend more time here, to explore it properly, or even to just walk around town, and the ancient town. The weather was really bad the day that I was there. It was raining non stop, making it difficult to walk about. I didn't have an umbrella with me, but not to worry-where there are tourists in need of something, the locals will happily provide!
As soon as the bus stopped, a group of local street sellers ran up to the bus with their raincoats, umbrellas, the Vietnamese conical hats, and a bunch of other things- and like in most places, it is difficult to get away from them. But this time, I did need something from them, so I chose the disposable raincoat which is more like a garbage bag with arm and neck holes-but it did serve the purpose, so I had no complaints!
Hoa Lu's beauty reminded me a lot of my home state of Kerala, with its lush greenery, and I think it would have been really nice to rent a cycle to go around the village which we didn't have time to see. But in bad weather, it wouldn't have been possible to do it anyway, so I consoled myself saying that.
If you plan on spending some time in the Ninh Binh area, do plan to stay a few days, just to explore it at a slow pace, without people hurrying you to the next destination.
Dinh Tien Hoang Emperor temple (King Dinh temple)
The grey stone building houses statues of Emperor Dinh Bo Linh and his sons.
The temple was built in honour of King Dinh Tienh Hoang (ruler of Dai Co Viet Dynasty) There are 265 steps which you must climb to get to the temple!
Le Dai Hanh Emperor temple (King Le temple)
The temple is at the foot of Ma Yen mountain.
One Pillar Pagoda (Nhat tru Pagoda)
The 10th century Pagoda
Hoa Lu Festival
If you are here in April, make it to Hoa Lu for the festival that celebrates the national cultural heritage. It occurs on 5th April or the 9th day of the 3rd Lunar month-better to google closer to the time to see when it is on.
How much time to spend in Hoa Lu
Since there isn’t that much to do here, most people make a quick stop here, and then head to Tam Coc, which is what I did.
How to get there
It is 100km from Hanoi, and will take 1hour 40 minutes to reach.
Bus From Hanoi
From Giap Bat or My Dinh station in Hanoi, take a bus to Ninh Binh. Buses leave every 30 minutes. The journey will be 2 hours long.
From Giap Bat railway station to Ninh Binh railway station, and then a taxi to Hoa Lu.
By car or motorbike
Switch on google maps! :)
There are a few hotels and homestays here if you decide to stay overnight. Stay at homestay for an authentic experience of local life.
Taking a tour to Hoa Lu
Most tour companies club the sights of Hoa Lu with Tam Coc, making a quick stop at Hoa Lu and then spending more time in Tam Coc.
If you are pressed for time, then this is a good idea, as there is more to do in Tam Coc. Else, stay the night at a homestay in Hoa Lu, and then continue exploring the rest of Ninh Binh.
Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below!