Family haven: escaping Hanoi pollution in Ninh Binh

I woke up with a very heavy headache. When I opened the windows, the sky was dirty white, and I couldn’t even fanthom further than a few hundreds meters away. The Air Quality Index said “very unhealthy” a health alert signifying that everyone may experience serious health effects.

My 7 years old was feeling deezy and nauseous and my 5 years old son was caughing and complaining of chest pain.

Train Station Hanoi
Hanoi Dress Code, the compulsory mask

We stayed locked in the first day. The second we decided to escape this hellish weather. Took me a few minutes to book our train tickets and eventually find an hotel in Ninh Binh, 2h 1/2 away from Hanoi.

And because pictures will always be worth a thousands words .. Here is a snapshot of the revigorating weekend we had, for less than 200 US all included (hotel, train return from Hanoi and visits!) :

There are dozens of sites to visit in Ninh Binh. To make it really kids friendly, we sticked to a very few, mainly boat touring and cave exploring. We visited a few temples and pagoda, to stretch our legs and get our share of stories and legends. We filled our lungs with pure air, detoxed our ears from the incessant noise of the neighbouring construction sites, and had long walks without the fear of being rolled over by a scooter. Such a bliss! And icing on the cake, the kids went to bed super early those nights.

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We have been twice in Ninh Binh. The first time it was only me and the kids and we stayed in Vancouver hotel (50 US a night with a breakfast a volonte). Very kind family run hotel, they organised our 2 day visit on motorbike. I rented 2 drivers and 2 motorbikes for 20 US a day. I can’t recommend them enough, they are super kind, very adaptable and patients.

The second time we moved to La Belle Vie nearby, in Tam Coc. Because the rooms were bigger to accomodate my 2m husband 🙂 I couldnt believe how large ours was! 3 large beds for 50 US dollars, breakfast included.

To travel from Hanoi, we opted for the train. It’s your usual Occidental standards but cheap, convenient and my son will always remember the fun he had chasing a chicken that had escaped the rice bag of our neighbour!

Look at our pictures before and after. Does the place need further advertising ?







12 thoughts on “Family haven: escaping Hanoi pollution in Ninh Binh

  1. Oh gosh I remeber so well the pollution in Hanoi which gave me bronchitis for three weeks. We also loved Ninh Binh! Best city escape. Also the mountains further North are a lovely getaway. (Sapa)

    We stayed at such a gorgeous place in Ninh Binh, am including the post here so you can find it on another trip maybe. Cannot remember how much it was though I recall it being reasonable for what we got..


    1. Thanks for the link Peta 🙂 I love all your pictures, they really do justice to this beautiful place.
      We tried to reserve a couple of times but it was fully booked. Good though as we ended up in those 2 very charming hotels, for a third of the price. And as much as I d love to pose like you in the bathtube (green all around, hot water .. what a bliss!!!) , I know it would only be a matter of seconds before the 2 Attilas start screaming ” I am coming Mum!!” and the place is flooded … You know what I mean 😉

      Yes pollution is a disaster. Coming from a city by the forest, where I always took breathing fresh air for granted, it is a shock indeed. And not an Occidental fantasy as you can see as many Viet always wearing masks in the streets and on their motorbikes. My son has a mask made especially for his size, so unreal .. I am now totally reviewing my working ambitions in case we need to leave before the 4 year contract. So far so good, and as long as we can reload our lungs on weekends we should be fine though 🙂
      Big Hugs!

  2. It’s great that you can escape quickly and fairly inexpensively when the air gets bad. But how often does it get that bad, and do you need to escape every weekend? I know you are enjoying the cultural life of Hanoi, so I hope the air quality doesn’t drive you away with any regularity!

    1. Oh dear those last 3 weeks have been terrible. I could never ever imagine that the simple act of breathing could actually harm us! The US Embassy is publishing its data every days and it feels like a scifi movie. For the first time in my life, I have planned our Xmas getaway in advance (not the usual week before) and got us an extra box of masks in case.
      Many of our friends wont renew their contracts here because of the pollution. Balance between the awesome cultural and social life one can have here and the pollution .. We are waiting for tomorrow’s rains to clean it all so we can go hopefully from red to orange. Seems that it usually lasts until Feb..

  3. Looks like a much needed getaway, Estelea! I didn’t realize how dirty the air quality is in Hanoi, though I’ve never been there so I suppose I woudn’t know. I have a theory that I got pneumonia when I was in Thailand iin part due to poorer air quality. I suppose I’ll never know for sure, but it’s something I’ve considered.

    1. Oh yes Britta, Bangkok is not so good either. Far better than Hanoi though, as today Hanoi rates number 6 in the most polluted cities in the world.But Bangkok is nuber 26 and Chaing Mai 29 .. It is strange becaus today for instance is very sunny, so you feel like going for a ride on your bicycle. But no, safer to stick inside the house.
      I still have to get used to it, like the notes of the teachers telling that kids will not play outside today because of the pollution. Totally unreal 😦

  4. Hi Estelea,

    I have been reading your blog posts and I really love your honesty.

    I live in Dublin, I am planning on moving to Hanoi in March. I plan on living there for a year or so but I am genuinely kind of afraid. I look at the pollution radar on this website: everyday for the past couple of weeks and it almost gives me anxiety.

    Do you genuinely think it would be a bad idea to move to Hanoi over the next couple of months?

    I feel like I might arrive and regret it straight away. I read a lot of different articles and have watched many videos so I really don’t know what to do. The honest people seem very worried.

    If I have the choice to go somewhere else, should I take this opportunity and avoid Hanoi?

    Thank you in advance


    1. Carlos, super sorry for the late answer! Are you in Hanoi ? the pollution is less worrying than this winter – far from being great but definitely better. Are you considering other places in the country? Feel free to email me for a faster reply 🙂

      1. Hey Estelea! I’m actually going to Hanoi tomorrow for a couple of days to check it out. I’m excited as I know there are a lot of interesting things to see and do. I will be moving to Da Nang after that if everything works out. Hope everything is good with you, I keep an eye on your blog posts 🙂

      2. Welcome to Vietnam 🇻🇳 we are in Hoi An for a couple of days, we ll may bump into each other 😊 see you around !

  5. I am sorry that the pollution is so oppressive but delighted that you escaped to Ninh Binh. Loved that place. So close but a totally different world from Hanoi (which I also love in spite of the dirty air).
    Wish I’d known you in October when I visited there.

    1. Me too !!! I would have loved to have the soundtrack of all your beautiful pictures.
      Summer is looming angd the polllution is significantly reducing. Finally …

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