The smog was suffocating and the incessant honking ate away at our sanity. We had to get out of Hanoi. So we found ourselves on a train heading towards Ninh Binh Province, an area a couple hours south of Hanoi that we knew almost nothing about.
After living frugally in Hanoi, we decided to splurge (by our standards) in Ninh Binh. We stayed at Nguyen Shack, a sort of glamping eco-lodge in a village outside of the main town. For $20 a night, we finally had peace. We slept free from smog, with only the sounds of nature coming through the walls of our shack. We borrowed bicycles and rode around the village, took a boat ride through towering karsts, and explored the countryside. If you find yourself in Hanoi and need to get away from the madness, Ninh Binh and Nguyen Shack are a great choice.