Nam Dinh – The Perfect Gateway Between Ninh Binh & Halong Bay

A destination in Northern Vietnam that your travelers have never heard of – and how to sell it – by Brice van Huffel, Product Manager for Easia Travel Vietnam

We consider our Production Teams “Experts of Easia”, and rightfully so. They know the ins and outs of the most popular spots and off-the-grid gems. Our Product Manager for Vietnam, Brice Van Huffel, has explored the lesser-known region of Nam Dinh and explains why this modest gem is now on our radar.

Nam Dinh. An unknown name for most travelers, yet there are plenty of reasons to find out a little more about this secret gem of Northern Vietnam. We’ve explored this region extensively in order to build a suitable itinerary that incorporates the best of Nam Dinh and blends seamlessly into local life here. As a Production Team, we always aim to find something new, off-the-conventional-map, and here we found just that.

5 key points to know about Nam Dinh

Note: Duration (by car)

  1. Nam Dinh is located between Ninh Binh and Halong Bay, making it a perfect 1-night stop.
  2. Nam Dinh City itself is not attractive, but the countryside around it is lovely (and that’s where we’re heading!).
  3. The region between Ninh Binh and Nam Dinh is considered one of the cradles of Catholicism in Vietnam (boasting the Phat Diem Cathedral), and the Nam Dinh region specifically is home to some of the most beautiful churches in Vietnam.
  4. Nam Dinh is a province with a long coastline, where fishing is particularly important.
  5. This is where Pho Bo (the famous noodle soup dish from Northern Vietnam) was created!

Rice planting in Nam Dinh’s countryside

Nam Dinh is well-known for…it’s photogenic landscape!

Nam Dinh is not on the radar for most foreign travelers, but if you work in the tourism industry you might have already seen pictures of local fishermen using bamboo poles to walk in the sea and fish in this agriculturally-rich region.

A local man relaxes by the seaside with the traditional bamboo pole he uses for fishing

Nam Dinh is a photographer’s dream, with romantic scenes of old churches standing proudly next to the sea, fishermen working next to colorful flags, or hundreds of boats waiting next to each other in the calm waters. The region is truly refreshing, it’s different yet accessible and it’s home to several intriguing cultural sights (ones that cannot be found anywhere else in Northern Vietnam).

Hai Ly Ruined Church – one of the region’s most famous churches.

What do we do in Nam Dinh?

The itinerary designed here by Easia Travel is full of surprises! Since transportation is particularly limited in this region, travelers will often best explore different churches and cathedrals with their own two feet, cycling in the countryside to beautiful rice fields and meeting locals in small factories, or simply wandering on the beach to observe fishermen working on their nets after returning from a night of fishing.

Travelers can also visit the famous Xuan Thuy National Park by boat, an area that is dominated by traditional fishing practices and is home to some wonderful wildlife.

A toddler looks at us curiously during our visit to a home in which the family makes conical hats.

 

Why was Nam Dinh not mentioned before?

The issue with “off the beaten path” destinations in Vietnam is often the availability of accommodation. The absence of hotels and satisfactory homestays make it difficult to include certain regions in a program that caters to a wide range of travelers. The situation has changed in Nam Dinh, where now one particularly suitable accommodation has been established. It’s not really a hotel, but not quite a homestay either. What makes this accommodation great is that it’s clean, located next to a restored colonial French house, offers a good selection of food, and sits in the perfect location to start an exploration of the region.

The house is located in a former French neighborhood and was also the starting point for our cycling route.

Why I loved Nam Dinh?

How does one sell a new region, especially when there is scarce online information available for it and most of your clients have likely never heard of it? Here are my thoughts:

  • In our modern globalized era, an unknown destination that doesn’t pop up on Lonely Planet’s radar is golden.
  • It’s not touristic and therefore the contact with locals is amazing and a lot more intimate. Local people are curious about visitors, and it’s easy to visit local houses and places of interest (locals will naturally talk about their churches or about the way they make conical hats, which the region is famous for).
  • The history and culture in Nam Dinh are incredibly rich, and here you can best learn about the history of Catholicism in Vietnam, the importance of the sea, and find some of the finest churches in Vietnam.
  • The accommodation that is available in Nam Dinh is full of charms. It’s not for 5-star seekers, but for travelers simply looking for an overnight stay while exploring, it’s perfect!
  • It’s easy to include in any itinerary between Ninh Binh and Halong Bay. In Vietnam, where “off the beaten path” can often mean hours of driving on mountainous roads, Nam Dinh is a much more convenient and comfortable alternative. Here it’s a 2-hour drive on a perfect road passing salt fields!

Traveling in the countryside is always a pleasure for me because it’s here that you learn how much traveling is based on meetings and unexpected encounters. Here you might see 5 boats returning at the same time to unload their catches at a local fishing market. Or receive the waves of friendly locals. Or witness a traditional wedding. Encounters are meaningful and endless.

I leave you with some additional pictures of this beguiling region!

A local woman working on her fishing nets.

Cycling in the countryside.

A fisherman’s boat returns to the shore. They will use one cable to tract the boat out of the water.

A home in which locals make conical hats.

One of the churches travelers will come across during the cycling activity in the afternoon.

The team in action! (Yes, we brought a lot of cameras for this inspection trip)

You can find more insightful information on Vietnam in the Product Brochures on our Agent Hub:
Vietnam – Mud, Water, Or Rice? Our Guide To Vietnam’s Rice Seasons
Vietnam – Floating Markets Of The Mekong Delta

Want to find out more about this unique region, or interested in the other hidden treasures Southeast Asia has to offer? Contact our Sales Team directly here

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