Tamcoc and Hoa Lu are famous tourist destinations in Ninh Binh province of North Vietnam. A day trip to Tamcoc will be there in everyone's tour itinerary. You can find a lot of operators in Hanoi old quarter organizing group day tours for Hoa Lu - Tamcoc. The operator will pick you up in your respective hotels and head towards Hoa Lu around 8 Am . It took around 3 hours to reach Hoa Lu.
It was sunny in Hanoi but as soon as we entered Ninh Binh province it started raining. Ninh Binh is a rain prone province and you might have heard about recent flood as well. Its better to carry your jackets here,if not you can find villagers selling rain coats and bamboo hats .
Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam in 10th century and famous for its rice fields and limestone mountains. The guide will explain the history behind this ancient capital and two temples here. In ancient times the local residents of this province have built temples to honor royal members .
The first temple is called Dinh Tien Hoang which was built to honor the warlord Din Bo Linh who later established the first imperial dynasty of Vietnam,Dinh dynasty. You can find the statue of king and his sons and other ancient items in the complex.
Next temple is dedicated to Le Dai Hanh. This temple is in the same complex to the north of Dinh Tien Hoang temple. After the assassination of king Din Bo, Le Dai Hanh a military general of Din Bo Linh acted as regent for the king's son and later married late king's wife and established Le Dynasty. Natives hold these two empires in high regards since they fought and stopped China's Song dynasty invasion.
Next,the group headed towards Tamcoc. Lunch buffet was arranged by the operator in some motel and we reached Tamcoc around 2 PM. Boating in Ngo Dong river and cycling are the activities in Tamcoc .
Its just a 45 min - 1 hour ride but the path is quite picturesque. You can have a good view of karst formations,and fields on the way. River is exactly on the other side of these mountains and you can see the boating from bridges along the way.
You can find a temple in the village end. After a short break there, the guide will lead the party towards the base again. The operator will take the tickets for boating near the dock.
Its a two hour boat ride along Ngo Dong river amidst mountains which are karst formations,limestone caves and serene rice paddies. Only two people are allowed per boat. Boating is actually the livelihood of the villagers. In evening they collect the money from government counter showing the number of tickets they have rowed that day.
These light weight boats are called sampan boats. Unique thing about this boating is that villagers use their feet for rowing. This rowing technique reduces pressure on their backs and arms and helps them face forward position while padding.
You will be going through lot of natural tunnels underneath the mountains along the way. Villagers switch to hand control when they are about to enter caves.
Water will be dripping from the limestone rocks above,take care of your head and accessories when you are inside the tunnel.Since entrance and exit are along the same route,your boat might slightly clash with other boats too if it is crowded inside the cave.
Villager will give you a small pedal, If interested you can also assist in rowing. You can also find small floating market setup while returning and villagers will persuade you to buy something. It will be a two hour long worthy ride to cherish in the end. After thanking and tipping the villager you can head towards your bus.
Group day tour is more than enough for a tightly packed schedule but in case if you are going for a private tour and intend to stay overnight then you can explore near by mountains and have a good top view. You can also opt for boating in Trang An instead of Tamcoc.
So that's it, the day trip is over. After the boat ride the bus will head towards Hanoi and the guide will drop at your respective hotels in Hanoi old quarter around 8 PM.
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In the next post,will write about the places to visit in Hanoi in a day .
Wish you all a happy New Year ! :)