A boat tour through river caves in the scenic area of Trang An is a must do activity in Vietnam. Situated 7 kms off Ninh Binh & about 2 hours drive from Hanoi on the margins of Red River Delta, this is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its spectacular landscape of vertical limestone cliffs permeated with valleys earns it the title “Ha Long Bay on land”. This is indeed a very unique place.
The boat trip carries options of 2 hours or 4 hours – the option of 2 hours being the popular with most tourists and one gets to cover more than 8 caves & river tunnels. The ticketing center looks well organized; there is ample parking place, souvenirs shops & eateries lined up; etc. People usually buy traditional Vietnamese Hats, water & refreshments before beginning the journey.
All boats carry 4 – 6 Seats capacity with a “boat Lady”” doing the bulk of rowing and with additional oars tucked by the side for you to row. You are expected to pitch in and row as well. The river caves boat trips take two hours to tour the caves and tunnels. Bring a hat and sunscreen as the boats lack shade.
King Kong Valley:
As you start the journey – you get to look around and enjoy the tranquil waters and the scenic mountains ahead. About 30 mins of gentle rowing you get deeper into the valley – the feeling of awe of the tall cliffs and the surreal atmosphere you are rowing into sets in.
It is no wonder that these places are popular locales for countless Hollywood movies like King Kong ( by James Cameron ) and the more recent Skull Island. The sheer beauty is inspiring. The cliffs appear in different shapes and formations – some of them looking very ominous making it surreal adventure.
The boat ride takes you along a valley called the King Kong Valley – courtesy the popular movie name.
One also get to see a pagoda mysteriously nestled in the valley between two huge cliffs amidst thick forest vegetation.
The boat enters a small mouth of a Cave at the base of the huge mountain and it turns out to be adventurous trip rowing through the it. The river cave winds through the mountain with cystralline formations from the ceiling.
The ceiling of the tunnel gets low at many points and one needs to lower the heads to avoid being bumped against the rock formations. These tunnels have various names like Sang Cave, Toi Cave, Ba Giot Cave, Sinh Cave…etc. Strategically placed electric light bulbs improve the effect of the ride.
The boat takes a detour on return – it hits more river tunnels on the way back – notably one tunnel with Cave ceiling quite comfortably high.
You get to pass alongside a Temple providing cultural glimpses of Vietnam & row beneath a walk bridge. As you circle back to the point of origin you are overcome by a sense of gratification that you were able to experience such a unique natural phenomenon. As you glance back you would realize that this is truly a natural wonder and it is fortunate that it is still not ravaged by reckless exploitation in thee name of development.
Check out this video for a scintillating virtual experience of the caves.
This is child friendly activity – safety jackets are provided; the water is tranquil and appear clean. We could see some other groups carrying guitar and singing as they rowed along the valley. We choose to row to be of assistance to the boat lady. Overall – this is an equally exhilarating experience that matches up to the beauty of Ha-Long bay Sea Cruise.
Check out more to do in Vietnam and the surrounding countries through our page Travel Diaries. Leaving some interesting links for you to Browse through too.
hanoi in a day
This is a post by Sriram B who is a travel enthusiast and a prolific writer. Working on a full-time managerial job, he finds unique places to explore. Being the husband and co-traveller to Seema, he is an excellent travel buddy and locates unique destinations to explore.