We're just back from a four night trip around Ninh Binh and Phu Luong. Our itinerary was: pick up from Halong Bay and drive to Ninh Binh (stayed at the Tam Coc Garden which was brilliant); full day tour of Ninh Binh countryside and overnight at Ninh Binh; travel to Phu Luong and overnight in a homestay; travel to Mai Chau and overnight at Mai Chau Ecolodge (also lovely but not as good as Tam Coc Garden and more expensive). I wasn't sure how much we'd enjoy this part of our trip, particularly the homestay, but it was fantastic and was the highlight of our holiday. In fact, the only thing I'd change about our whole trip would be to spend less time in Hoi An (a bit touristy) and more in the countryside. We had a brilliant day on motorcycles touring around Ninh Binh and Phu Luong was absolutely beautiful and I'd highly recommend it (and try and go soon as the government is funding new roads into the area to help increase tourism and we saw lots of new homestays being built). Our homestay was basic but one of the best places I've stayed. Basically, like staying in a large garden shed with a balcony looking straight out over amazing views across the Phu Luong countryside, complete with ducks, cows and buffalo. I booked the hotels myself but the rest of the tour and the homestay was arranged with Toan Duong (firstname.lastname@example.org), who I found through recommendations on Tripadvisor. Toan was brilliant and I can't recommend him highly enough. He made sure everything ran smoothly, showed us lots of really interesting things and was very knowledgeable about Vietnamese history and culture.