Halong bay of the Paddy fields, tour Tam coc, Vietnam.

Paddy fields enroute Tam Coc
The best thing that we did in Hanoi  was to ditch the usual tour series and say upfront we don’t want to have crowded places to visit. This opened up new frontiers to our tour . We were quickly skimming through pictorial references of Ning  Bin province and Hoa Lu. This region is equally famous among the locals as the limestone caves and crags arise along the river beds. This is more local as this is far cheaper than a cruise along the Halong bay itself.
Hoa Lu
The old capital town of Hoa lu is a two hour drive ( 90 kms) from the town of Hanoi  and opens up a Pandora box of postcard picture perfect Vietnam which actually did attract you over to this country. This small town of  Hoa lu has been the capital town from the 10th century and still holds the old world charm of a quaint quite town.Its just a pass by town on the tour.This will serve as the entry point to Tam Coc, Bich Dong, Trang An and Ba Dinh tourist spots. There are only a few temple  buildings of interest here and is often skipped for the look out for more popular spots.
Tam  Coc
A short ride of Hoa  lu towards the southern town of Ning Bin lies the place nicknamed ‘halong of the paddy fields’.  Keeping up with the nick name, the limestone krasts are flanked by velvety smooth greenery. The ride is extremely beautiful too with the road sides full of vegetable and paddy fields and rising mounts limestone.  It looks like like the giant dropped rock candy as he walked though (expression borrowed from my children). In flows river Ngo Dong River adding water to this fertile region.
The ride along this river is the highlight to this region.  The tickets cam be picked up at the town of Pier Van Lam, which has some eateries and short buy areas. Toilets are payable so please keep small change.
Boat rides along River Ngo Dong
Caves at Tam Coc

Caves at Tam Coc

The bamboo boats rides take around two hours.  The rowers are chatty Vietnamese women who encourage you to row all with them. Join the fun as you paddle along ( free workout). It’s a two hour hard ride for them to paddle the heavy bodies along so indulge and row along. The river winds down though the huge limestone monolithic rocks with caves and caverns  endless. These caves are formed by the erosion of these limestone rocks.
There are three caves the river traverse through as you pass by this region. Hang Ca,  Hang Giua (70 meters long)  and Hang Cuoi . These limestone caves are passable by the small bamboo boats.. Some with large mouth and some quite narrow so try boats pass in a single file.  It’s beautiful
Caves at Tam Coc

Cave tour at Tam Coc

 

The caves are equipped  with electric lights. It definitely would be spooky to pass through these  caves with just a head lamp. The rocks arising from the water and the stalactites  from the ceiling marked it a slow but fun ride. the shimmering flow-stones leaved a marked impression.
“Move right”, “slant”, bend low all instructions  arose in Vietnamese  from our boat lady efficiently maneuvered  the boat through the dim lit caves. It was quite a wonderful experience and the ride back allows us to connect back with the green  paddy fields of the Van Lam village in the background  and the bright sun.
Your onward journey could go on tour to explore the mountainous pagodas of Bith Dong.  On the Ngu Nhac mountain is located three pagodas the Han,  Trung, and Thuong..
We decided to skip this as we were quite tired already.
Tour package
Typical tour package has only two of these places. If you are a traveler without children accompany  you then will recommend  to stay in Ninh  Bin. and explore Trang An, Ba din Pagoda too
The tour package includes lunch. For vegetarians /vegans inform ahead as you book.  Yet being there at the restaurant  use your code word “chay” to get instant response..
The  rides are fairly safe for kids. Choose a boat with life jackets new. Our one had it all broken and damaged.
Caves at Tam Coc

Boating at Tam Coc

What to carry?
Please carry a hat to protect yourself from the sun,  sunscreen and water.  You could buy them as you go along too. But, better to be handy..
 Points to keep in mind
Tipping is a common practice. 
The ask for tip starts as soon as the boat woman veins to row is back. Our two cents… It’s a long two hours of heavy paddling to work as their wages.  So we helped her rowing and also tipped her.
Boat shopping
As soon S you are out if the third cave a swarm of boats,  trying to sell food or trinkets  will not let you go.  Till you buy something.  Our truck offer the boat lady to get rid of them ahead and tell her you will give a better tip (please keep in mind as you tip her) The idea worked for us.
Caves at Tam Coc

memorable Tam coc Tour

Our trip was a memorable one day away from the hustle and bustle  of the city.  The  myriad hues of green still lingering in my eyes as I close them each time.  Read on for the updates on Trang An too to plan your trip better.
Check out a video of Trang An caves which look similar at our You tube channel.
Check out the other regions you may want to explore with us at our page the Travel Diaries
Don’t miss to subscribe to receive periodic updates.   Also,  leave a note if this article was useful for you. Enjoy your  Trip.

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poorna
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planning a trip there next month, so bookmarked!

Sab
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Your blog inspired me to Vietnam someday! May I ask the website link of the tour package you booked for this trip? smile

Hira Ahmed
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Looks like you had fun!

Ann
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i’ve read a lot of blogpost about vietnam and it definitely encouraging me to visit this country soon!

jen
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I’ve been reading up a lot on getting tours from tour agencies and many of them have had bad experiences. I’m glad yours is a good one. That’s one less worry for me when i finally go get on a tour in Vietnam. Thanks for sharing.

One and Half backpacks
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I like it, very informative post. I am saving it for future references smile

Alex
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Really nice post and I like the pics too smile