You visited the world famous Halong Bay and hordes of tourists ruined your trip? Well….let me introduce you to a place that is as unique as Halong Bay, but largely untouched by mass tourism: Tam Coc.
‘The Halong Bay of the mainland’
Vietnam’s best hidden secret can be found three hours south of Hanoi, close to the town of Ninh Binh, used as homebase by most travelers. Rent a bike or taxi through your hotel and head out to Tam Coc village as early as possible. At the center of town you’ll be able to catch a small, private row boat for a two hour round trip which takes you on idyllic waterways through vast rice fields along stunning limestone cliffs. A striking scenery, which resembles a lot the natural formations of Halong Bay.
The experienced skippers are also known for their unique rowing techniques, for which they lay back, lift their feet and pretend to be pedaling an imaginary bicycle. With a maximum capacity of two people per boat, the trip is a quite intimate experience, unlike most Halong Bay tours. On your way through the scenic landscape you’ll pass local fishermen, small bamboo huts, ancient temples and narrow caves.
Vietnam’s best viewpoint
After the two hour boat ride, enjoy a delicious lunch in Tam Coc village before heading on to Mua Cave Hill and it’s stunning viewpoint. At the end of a road running along endless rice paddies, a stone staircase will lead to the panoramic viewpoint at the hill’s peak. After you’ve mastered the 500 step ascent, you’ll find an altar to Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy. Physical exhaustion will melt away to a sense of awe and peace, as you see the Ngo Dong River winding through distant Tam Coc valley.