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The adventure tour is called the Ninh Bình Challenge. In the Challenge, participating tourists are divided into teams of three and begin their tour through an area known as “Ha Long Bay on land”, an area of rice paddies surrounded by majestic limestone karsts about 90km south of Ha Noi.

The gorgeous countryside and its water buffalo and green and gold rice paddies confirm all the postcard fantasies about Viet Nam.

“This is the first time I have taken part in this kind of adventure tour,” said Pham Thai Minh from HCM City. “The race is fun and the panorama is beautiful.”

“Amazing weekend in Ninh Bình! Biked, ran, climbed, rowed, zip lined instead of abseiled, and didn’t throw up once, haha!,” said tourist Adam Maingot. “Viet Nam truly is a beautiful country.”
Adventure tourists enjoy pushing it to the limit in scenic Ninh Bình

Chris Birt, a British geoscientist, said he had heard about Ninh Bình and decided to participate in the tour with a view to seeing everything with his own eyes despite having to fly over 1,700km from HCM City to Haø Noäi and take a two-hour bus ride to the province.

He was really satisfied by the unique tour, he said. Ninh Bình was a great travel destination with imposing and jagged mountains and children cheering as his team passed by. Birt said he would be back next year with his family so they could share the experience with him and visit Bai Dính Pagoda and the surrounding area.

“I was very impressed with the scenery,” said his teammate, American Joshua Turner. “The race was easier than I expected so I was able to enjoy the scenery while running.”

Turner’s team took the top position after two days of events. He cautioned, however, that Ninh Bình was not yet a great place for cyclists due to the truck traffic.

“My previous adventure race was west of Dallas, Texas, and was one long day,” Turner said. “The competition there was much tougher and we came in about 20th out of about 200. Ninh Bình is much prettier though and I’m sure it’ll be much more competitive next year.”

“I wanted to make something different for tourists in Viet Nam,” said Jean-Luc Voisin, director of the Viet Adventure Co, organiser of the Ninh Bình Challenge.

“I hope they can really see Vieät Nam through what’s happening in the villages, not only passing by and looking as tourists often do in normal tours,” Voisin said. “I have worked with the local residents for many years, and I hope that my customers will have chances to admire the beauty of the country through the daily lives of the people.”

He said he modeled the Challenge after adventure tours in southern provinces like Bình Thuan and Dong Nai after he realised that nothing similar was on offer in the north. He chose Ninh Bình after seeing it on a television documentary.


Adventure tourists enjoy pushing it to the limit in scenic Ninh Bình
Hoa Lu - Tam Coc - Trang An complex
Cliffhanger: Tourists compete in the rock climbing event. — Photo courtesy of Pham Hoang Van“It’s a strong motivation for people to compete with themselves and prove that they can do a lot of different things and overcome challenges,” he said.

Participants in the Ninh Bình Challenge had to train regularly in preparation for their tour, which would require them to mountain bike for 50km before a 14km hike, 20m of rock climbing and 4km of boating.

“I went to a gym one month before the tour to improve my strength and endurance,” said Minh, who nevertheless suffered a cramp during the biking tour.

Birt and Turner said they went cycling every weekend and running four times a week to make sure that they would able to meet the Challenge.
Adventure tourists enjoy pushing it to the limit in scenic Ninh Bình
Cliffhanger: Tourists compete in the rock climbing event. — Photo courtesy of Pham Hoang Van

Among around 50 adventurers, Jordan Kindness, a 10-year-old girl, was the youngest racer. But she brought a surprise to all the rivals by successfully passing all the obstacles and, together with her parents, winning the adventure category – even after sinking a traditional boat and having to start this part of the race.

Kindness met no difficulty in finishing the 25km biking and 8.5km running events. And while rock climbing and zip lining tested the strength and skills of the adult participants, for Kindness, it was a piece of cake.

“It’s hard to keep up with her – she has to wait for us,” laughed her parents.

For her performance, Kindness received a special offer to take part in Viet Adventure’s next event, the Madagui Trophy, in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong in February.

Source: VNS
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