Vietnam was gifted with numerous gorgeous limestone karst mountains some of which have existed for a thousand years but are still barely explored. Karst towers are a usual site in the northern and central regions of the country with them dotting the baywaters such as that of Halong Bay or the vast rice fields typical in Ninh Binh Province or the jungle paradise in Phong Nha-Ke Bang. One spectacular way to explore these pristine karst mountains is through a cruise which had instantly made a visit to Halong Bay quintessential whenever you fly to Hanoi. On the other hand, a not so disappointing alternative and another that will let you see the unrivaled charm of these karst in a totally different perspective is through a cruise in Ngo Dong River in Tam Coc, Ninh Binh Province.
Tam Coc means Three Caves, derived from the 3 small caves namely Hang Ca, Hang Hai and Hang Ba. Ngo Dong River snakes to all 3 of these caves which made the cruise more remarkable as it lets you see awesome cave rock formations. The cruise is done through a bamboo boat rowed by skillful local women aging beyond 40 with incredible youthful strengths. Each boat is rowed by one local woman and designed to fit 3-4 people. The tour kicks off in the river banks of Van Lam Village passing all three caves and back with the scenery dominated by rice paddies, lush greenery and karst mountains towering in the distance.
The tour to Tam Coc is the perfect alternative to the more coveted Halong Bay Cruise reason why it was dubbed as the Halong Bay By The Lands. The tour is suitable for people with little time to spare. This 3-hour excursion in Tam Coc will let you marvel at some of nature’s magnificent creations while discovering a side of Vietnam you rarely hear spoken of. The life thriving at the river banks and the richness of the culture are some of the things which have made the tour to this remote district absolutely worth the while.
HOW TO GO THERE
Tours to Tam Coc are normally clubbed with a tour to Hoa Lu [Read: HOA LU: An Imperial City Lost In the Mist Of Time] or Bich Dong and are priced at USD$21 inclusive of transportation, entrance fees, tour guide and buffet lunch. In Hanoi, many agencies situated in Ma May Street of the Old Quater [Read: How To Travel Cheap In Hanoi And The Timeless Old Quarter] offer this tour as an alternative to Halong Bay Cruise which normally takes 2 days.
FEATURES OF THE HALONG BAY BY THE LANDS TOUR
Not only are tourists able to marvel at the exquisite beauty of the endless rice paddies broken by karst towers in Ninh Binh through a cruise by the river but they also get the opportunity to ride a bike and explore the nearby villages and interact with the friendly locals. And if you are even lucky, you might even bump into a herd of buffaloes playfully running towards the streams for their much needed bath.
SOME TRAVEL TIPS
- When getting the tour from agencies in Hanoi, make sure to have some dollar bills available to avoid getting ripped off. Tours are normally offered in dollars so having dollar bills handy is quite an advantage as to avoid getting sucked in varying and unfair exchange rates.
- The best time to go on tours in the northern region i.e Halong Bay and Tam Coc to see the karst mountains is during the months of April to June. Weather is less cold and visibility is great.
- Don’t expect too much on the buffet. I love Vietnamese but that lunch wasn’t really much to my liking. It was quite healthy though. Dishes were consist of fried veggies, salads, spring rolls and sticky rice. There were meat dishes but they didn’t taste good.
There you have it folks. I need not say anything more why I fell so much in love with Vietnam. In fact what I’ve seen during my visit was just the tip of the iceberg but I was completely sold. I will definitely go back and see some more this beautiful country has to offer. Care to join me and be my travel buddy? Give me a shout on the comments box below.
Do you have any thoughts about Tam Coc? Let me know. Let’s chat!
Ayt. Until next time. See yah. 🙂