Lusting after some peaceful nature? A quiet retreat only a few hours from Hanoi? Get yourself to Ninh Binh, one of the real joys of Vietnam. By far the best option in town is Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh which is located alongside the serene and stunning Van Long Nature Reserve, just a short 20 minute drive from the town centre.
Ninh Binh was the ancient capital of Vietnam and can easily be reached by car or train from Hanoi in around 2 hours. You’ll be immersed in an area that is known for rolling green valleys and an imposing karst landscape which will create the perfect backdrop for your holiday.
The area (often called Halong Bay on land) is certainly the uncrowded alternative to what is perhaps one of the most popular natural tourist attractions in Vietnam. If you visit you won’t be disappointed and if you combine your trip with a stay at Emeralda Resort you’re certainly in for a treat.
We arrived at night and the open air lobby seemed full of lanterns which presented us with a warm and glowing welcome; the night was awash with bright stars, the sounds of nocturnal animals and insects filled the air. We felt truly surrounded by beauty and nature and we loved it.
Waking up in our Deluxe Room we were greeted with ornate carved wood panels, exposed beams high up in the arches and plenty of natural light flowing in through multiple windows. Our huge bathroom with walk in shower, twin sinks and stand alone bath tub even had a private garden complete with an outdoor shower. It’s easy to like this place.
During the day enjoy one of the many pools, wander along paths under arches made from climbing plants and enjoy the smell of citrus from the pomelo trees thoughout the resort; at times it really feels like you’re in an enchanted garden.
The Vegan Food:
We communicated with the resort prior to our stay about our vegan diet and upon check in we were shown the menu which already included a number of vegetarian options that could easily be made vegan. We were also told that the chef would happily create other vegan dishes if we liked.
Breakfast ( with views over the pool) in ‘Organics Restaurant’ included espresso, cereal with soya milk, fresh fruit platters and a bread basket with vegan baguette and brown bread; our bread was served with olive oil instead of butter upon request.
Hot dishes were prepared each day including vegan pho, fried rice noodles and rice with vegetables, tofu and topped with fried shallots and even a vegan bahn mi (Vietnam’s famous sandwich). Everything was freshly prepared and meant that we had an extensive choice for breakfast every day.
In the evening we enjoyed a number of dishes from the main vegetarian menu that were suitable for vegans with our favourite being the caramel tofu which was delicious. We chose a light and flavourful vegetable curry and fried spring rolls packed with mushrooms were very good too.
There were multiple veg side orders available and one of our favourites were the local Cove Beans, lightly sautéed with garlic.
The stuffed tofu from the menu wasn’t suitable for vegans as it contained butter sadly but other non-vegan dishes could be adapted, like a delicious velvety pumpkin soup which was easily veganised and is definitely recommended.
So good was our room and so high was the level of peace and quiet that we found it hard to leave to go for dinner on some nights. Luckily room service delivers some top notch, piping hot vegan food for those moments when you just don’t want to leave.
We ordered the caramel tofu again (it really was good) and a dish of lightly sauteed Dalat cabbage that was the perfect dish to enjoy alongisde the tofu which was sweet and rich with soy sauce.
The staff were always smiling and eager to help, they certainly went above and beyond to make sure we didn’t go hungry – thank you!
The Vegan Essentials:
The bed had synthetic duvet and pillows, all good for a perfect vegan sleep. The bathroom amenities were in refillable (planet saving) clay pots which is great as it reduces the use of plastic although it meant we were unable to check the ingredients and tell if they were vegan.
Our visit to La Cochinchine Luxury Spa was a highlight of our stay with us both enjoying a 45 signature minute massage by staff who were professional and talented. They understood which areas to focus on and delivered excellent treatments.
All of the staff we encountered at Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh were very helpful and friendly which we loved. The concierge and reception team were ever so helpful during our stay by arranging transfers and taxis, printing out onward travel confirmations and making suggestions about how we could spend our days.
They pointed us to Van Long Nature Reserve which was incredible and just a few hundred metres away from the resort. It delivered a perfect experience for nature lovers like us and we loved it so much we visited twice during our stay. Each time we were mesmerised by the incredible views and would highly recommend visiting.
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict:
Whilst many tourists head to Sapa from Hanoi to experience natural beauty we suggest you head in the opposite direction and visit Ninh Binh and stay at Emeralda Resort. You will not only get to enjoy relaxing in your spacious and welcoming room but you will encounter a friendly staff team who are keen to make your stay a memorable one.
The vegan food was tasty and plentiful but the real highlight of staying here is the proximity to the wonderful Van Long Nature Reserve where you can spend your time marvelling at nature without coach loads of tourists that you’re likely to find at other more ‘famous’ tourism hotspots in the region.
We were guests of Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.
Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh
Van Long Reserve,
Ninh Binh Province.
Telephone: +84 2293 658 333
Cost From: From £90 / $115 per night (Sept 2017)