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Idyllic Thung Nham mangroves or a bird watching paradise

At dusk, take a boat trip to the mangrove forests of Thung Nham Bird Park, hide yourself under the trees, and wait for the flocks to return to their nests after a hard working day, you will be amazed by the surreak scene with the sounds of birds filling the mangroves. 

Thung Nham (Nham Valley) eco-tourism zone is located in Hoa Lu District, 12km south of Ninh Binh City, about 2 hours driving from Hanoi City.

In the recent years, The 350ha bird park has become more popular as an attraction among tourists, but still retains its natural beauty. The best time to visit Thung Nham is Summer and Spring because it is when the birds are busy building nests and breeding, hence there is a greater chance for you to see them.

Thung Nham Bird Park houses more than 40 species of birds, some of which are named in the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The site has a rich ecosystem, including more than 100 flora and 150 fauna species. Riding the boat into the mangroves, you can find many bird nests with little eggs. “Tourists usually visit Thung Nham for one or two days, but personally, a two-day tour is necessary to enjoy the entire beauty here,” a tour guide said. “The most wonderful time is when flocks of birds appear at dawn and dusk.”

An adjacent attraction to Thung Nham is Vai Troi (Beseeching the God) Cave, which has about 3,000sq.m of space. The 439 stone steps leading to the mouth of the cave was the biggest challenge. There are three levels to the cave, all containing beautiful stalactites. The three levels are known as Earth, Hell and Heaven. Entering the cave’s mouth, visitors enjoy the spacious “Earth” area. All tiredness is blown away as you breathe in the cool air and enjoy the tranquil site. Then we go down to visit “Hell”, which is far from fearful with its many stalactites in a myriad of forms. Your voice might disturb some bats that flap around and retreat to the darker hallows. It is said that ancient Vietnamese people set up a sacred altar at the “Heaven” sector to pray for good weather and bumper harvests. It is the meaning of the cave’s name, Vai Troi (Pray to Heaven). Visitor Nguyen Xuan Quynh from Ha Noi said she felt wonderful while standing in “Heaven” and enjoying the panoramic view. “The peaks of surrounding mountains are covered by cloud and fog, making it a fairyland sight,” she said. “The stalactites are so special,” she said. “They make different sounds when we beat on them, like a kind of musical instrument.”

Adventurous tourists may like to discover Hang But (Buddhist Cave), about 500m in length. There are no electric lights, but the stalactites and stalagmites look so magical in torchlight, including a big Buddha-shaped stalactite sitting beside an underground river.

Thung Nham is surrounded by a primeval forest where tourists can enjoy trekking and see a 1,000-year-old streblus asper tree planted on a limestone hill by soldiers of King Dinh Tien Hoang (924-979), the first Vietnamese emperor after the end of Chinese colonialism. The soldiers planted the tree in the hope that the king would live long and be as strong as the tree. Also, on Nham Mountain is an ancient banyan tree. Its aerial roots cover the roof of an old shrine where the Mountain God is still worshiped. Thung Nham also attracts many visitors thanks to an orchard of tropical fruits, including star fruit, mangoes, guavas, and lychees. It is so relaxing to get away from the busy street and lanes of Ha Noi and wander around the gardens.

Thung Nham is described as being suitable for one to two-day trips. Visitors can also enjoy some special dishes such as wild pig, hill chicken, fresh seafood, bamboo shoots, forest vegetables. All the vegetables served to tourists is cultivated at the orchard.

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