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excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
317 posts
234 reviews
excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

The report at the link below was very helpful to me, but closed because of inactivity. My experience was much as was well described by Joanmar in the initial and later posts in this string. So I wanted to revive it and say thanks for writing so descriptively. I too loved Ninh Binh and the motorbike tour with Toan Duong. I wish Toan had a listing on TA where I can post a review as I was so very pleased with his services. The standard rate of $15/day is so ridiculously low that I was able to tip generously. This is not a slick operation: just a local man with extensive knowledge about the area, a charming, mild manner, and a safe motorcycle driver. While he can arrange tours by car, riding on the back of a motorbike is the best way to see the area. Slow enough to stop easily for photos, but fast enough to get places enjoying the fresh a/c. I left the itinerary mostly up to him, after stating a few preferences. If you do have ideas, state them clearly as everybody is different. While I did 2 day trip in the near vicinity of Ninh Binh, my understanding is that he is best at longer trekking trip to Cuc Phuong National Park and that area. (Rates for overnight trips are higher). Thanks, CB, for the recommendation. For full details, read this:

tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g293921-i8432-k5348…

113 replies to this topic
San Francisco...
Level Contributor
1,160 posts
52 reviews
1. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

I second all what whirledgirl has to say on Toan. We had the best 3 days in Ninh binh thanks to Toan. He is an excellent guide and local to the place. we did a car tour with him and second what above poster has mentioned " I wish Toan had a listing on TA where I can post a review as I was so very pleased with his services. "

Lockyer Valley...
Level Contributor
45 posts
28 reviews
2. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

Toan is fantastic. We used him for 4 days with motorbike and car. One of the highlights of our trip.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
3 posts
5 reviews
3. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

Hi

Has anyone got Toan's contact details. We are going in April. Many thanks.

Llanbrynmair...
Level Contributor
14,944 posts
13 reviews
4. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

Yep, his email address is toantourguide@hotmail.com. I've been using his services for years and can't praise him highly enough - your enjoyment of Ninh Binh will certainly be safe in his hands!

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
3 posts
5 reviews
5. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

Thank you!

6. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

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Durban
Level Contributor
7 posts
3 reviews
7. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

What a great decision to use Toan as a guide in Ninh Binh. Thanks Creaking Bones for your advice. We rode pillion on the backs of motorbikes through the most spectacular countryside in the Cuc Phuong National Park with Toan and his biker friends. Then Toan organised us simple bicycles and we spent two days riding through the karst mountainside..Rafting through theTrang An caves was a fantastic experience and luckily no crowds. We would have liked to have spent more than three days in this area with Toan . Next time we will go back to spend more time with him and his friends

Adelaide, Australia
Level Contributor
1 post
11 reviews
8. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

My 2 sisters and I used Toan's services just 2 weeks ago. We travelled around on the back of motorbikes ridden by Toan & 2 other gentlemen. We can not speak more highly of Toan and his friends. We visited some of the main attractions in the area, going off the beaten path to see the real Vietnam. I had also corresponded with Toan about visiting a local school to donate educational books, etc. and to meet some of the local children. Toan arranged this with a kindergarten and a secondary school which he himself attended. We were greeted by the Head Mistress (his teacher in earlier years) and offered tea before proceeding to the class room to watch an English lesson being given. We then went to a kindergarten and met the younger children, giving them balloons & stickers as well as educational aids. Both experiences were something to be believed and ones we will never forget. We were treated like rock stars with the children being so excited to have visitors from overseas at their school. This has never happened in this village before and it was apparent that this had been a well organised and much anticipated visit. My sincere thanks to Toan and his friends for making our trip a very special one. We only saw a fraction of what this special place has to offer so I intend to visit again at the end of this year with my husband and will definitely use Toan's services again. I would highly recommend you do the same.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
15 posts
21 reviews
9. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

My wife and I (both in our 50s, but experienced travellers over the last 35 years or more) used Toan and one of his colleagues for 3 days just after Easter. I can only concur with everyone else that it was one of the best parts of our trip to Northern Vietnam (actually, all of our trip to Vietnam was great, but our days travelling around Ninh Binh with Toan will particularly stay in our memory). I can't thank Creaking Bones enough for his posts recommending Toan. The interesting thing was that I found the reference while researching Sapa, but that is another story. Our original contact with Toan was in late January. (email toantourguide@hotmail.com). He responded to the initial email quickly, as well as most other emails. A couple of times we had to wait a day or two as he was trekking and had no contact with the outside world.

While researching the area on TA and Lonely Planet, I was able to compile a list of the places which we considered to be of interest. This was then provided to Toan, who then suggested amendments to the itinerary. He didn't seem to think that there would be any problem accommodating our wishes in the time we had available (3 days).

In the weeks leading up to our trip, we made contact with him just to confirm everything was ok - not a problem. We were scheduled to arrive on the 06.15 hr train out of Hanoi (arriving Ninh Binh 08.30), however, our train from Sapa arrived some 2 hrs late - in fact, just in time for us to watch the Reunification Express pulling out of Hanoi railway station :-(

I was able to contact Toan and let him know that we would be on the next train (about 2 hrs later), which did not seem to faze him at all (I have his mobile number if anyone needs it - send me a message if you want it). We subsequently arrived at Ninh Binh, and Toan and his colleague were there to meet us, on their motor bikes, to take us to the Emeralda Resort (about 30 minutes away). We were provided with helmets (the only gripe I would have about the entire 3 days would be that the helmet I was provided with was somewhat small), and the bags put between the handlebars and the rider (it is amazing what goes onto motor bikes and bicycles in Vietnam). The first part of the trip was obviously through the town, but from there on, they stayed on quite deserted roads - actually detouring to stay on the quieter roads.

We had short stop at the resort to drop off our luggage, and then on with the sightseeing. Toan was fantastic. Nothing was too much to ask, and he and his colleague managed to get us to most of the main places of interest in the 3 days we had available. Over the 3 days, we did Kenh Ga fishing village, Van Long Nature Reserve, Cuc Phuong National Park (including the walks to the 1000 year old tree and the prehistoric cave) - this was a full day 100 km return trip, Bai Dinh Pagoda, the ancient city of Hoa Lu, and the Nham Valley (very similar to Tam Coc without the hordes of people).

What you end up fitting in will depend on how much time you decide to spend in some of the places (Bai Dinh, for example). At first, we thought that we had perhaps made the wrong decision to stay at the Emeralda Resort, however, it turned out to be very well located relative to the various places we had to visit.

The third day was our departure day by train to Hanoi at 17:00 hrs - so, Toan arrived at the hotel with a rack (of sorts) fitted to the back of his bike which he then lashed our bags to, and we spent the day visiting the various places which we had not yet seen. They dropped us at the station around 16:30 hrs - a fabulous day on the bikes.

His fee included all the entry fees, lunches every day, and as mentioned, the "meet and greet" and transfer from the railway station :-)

There was no time when we felt "unsafe" on the bikes - I don't think that the bikes ever exceeded 55 kmh at any time, and most of the time was spent in the range of 30 - 40 kmh. They avoided the main trafficked roads wherever possible - there were times when we were travelling on roads only frequented by motor bikes and animals. There are also regular stops to stretch your legs (while Toan has his "cancer vitamins" ie cigarettes). On one such stop, we were able to watch a water buffalo starting to give birth (just coincidence that we stopped at that particular spot - it was not planned)

We are so pleased that we found the reference to Toan. He is usually a taxi driver, so when not doing motor bike tours or leading treks, he drives a taxi. He has quite a lot of knowledge about the area, including the history. His English is good, although, his written english is a lot better than his spoken English. You should not have any difficulty understanding him, though.

When we departed he indicated that he is still free for June, so if anyone is planning a trip - contact him ASAP. As mentioned in one of the earlier posts, it is a real pity that Toan does not have a separate TA listing.

Happy to answer any questions if anyone is worried about sitting on the back of a motor bike - we have quite a few photos too, but there does not appear to be any way to upload them on this part of the site.

Lockyer Valley...
Level Contributor
45 posts
28 reviews
10. Re: excellent guide in Ninh Binh: trip report revived

Youdelap, so glad you loved your trip. Toans trip was the absolute highlight of our trip last year. We dream about returning. Nothing better!

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