Located 90km south of Hanoi, Ninh Binh nowadays is a popular destination in the north of Vietnam with beautiful tourist sites including Tam Coc, Hoa Lu, Kenh Ga and Cuc Phuong National Park.
This is what most travellers come to NinhBinh to see: limestone karsts sweeping up from serene rice paddies, best appreciated on a languorous rowboat ride the river, to the suondtrack of water lapping against the oars.
It' de rigueur to describe the area around Tam Coc as the inland version of Halong Bay, but that's not exactly a gair comparison. Halong Bay sweeps across 3000 islands, at Tam Coc the encounter is much more intimate. Along a mere 2km of the Ngo Dong Rive, undisturbed by engine nosie, the limestone outcrops loom closer, larger this is the kind of landscape that would have suited the Romantic poests just fine.
Except that isn't most visitor's experience of Tam Coc. The scenery is Spectacualr but given its immense popularity, the river's of ten filled its with a crooked procession of boats inchuing by, with all the accompanying babble and noise. To really enjoy the view, come in the early morning or laterr afternoon.
Each boat carries two visitors, as well as the main rower and a secondary rower. The route takes boats throungh thr three caver for which Tam Coc is named: Hang Ca ( 127m long), Hang Giua (70m long) and HangCuoi (45m long). Eagle-eyed travellers may spot a small temple preched on an apparently inaccessible hilltop
Tickets are sold at the small booking of fice by the car park. The journey takes about two hours. It's not necessary to have a torch, but remember to bring sunscreen and a hat or umbrella, as the bosts aren't shaded. Rowers are adept at using their feet to prople the oars, which makes for a tourist-pleasing Kodak moment. Less pleasing is the hard sell that kicks in as the boat prepares to rurn around at the eand
The area behind the Tam Coc restaurants is Van Lan village, famous for its embroidery. Local artisans make napkins, tablecloths, pillowcases and T- shirts, some of which you might encounter on the boat ride. A lot of these items are sold on Hanoi's Pho Hang Gai, but it's cheaper to buy them here, direct from the artisans.Hoa Lu
Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam during the Dinh (968- 80 AD) and early Le (890- 1009 AD) dynasties. The Dinh chose the site to put some distance between them and China, as well as to take advantage of the protection of the region's rocky outcrops, as spectacular of the region's rocky outcrops, as spectacular as Tam Coc's. Most of the ancient citadel has been destroyed, but it used to cover about 3 sp km Yen Ngua Mountain provide a scenic banck-drop for Hoa Lu's Two surviving temples, both intimate spaces dominated by beautiful dark-red lacquered pillars. The first, Dinh TienHoang, was returned in the 17th century is dedicated to the Dinh dynasty. At the front of the main temple building is the stone pedestal of a royal throne; inside are bronze bell and a statue of Emperor DinhTien Oang with his three sons.
The second temple is to Le Dai Hanh, an early Le monarch. Inside the main hall is the usual assortment of drums, gongs, incense burners, candle holders and weapons, with a statue of the king in the middle, his queen on the right and their son or the left. In the left-hand section of this complex a museum features part of the excavations of the 10th- century citadel wall.
Given how much of it is in ruins, perhaps the best way to appreciate Hoa Lu to hike up to the tombs of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang, 80m up the light of steps at the hill opposite the ticket office. It takes about 20minutes o to up, and for the best view of Hoa Lu, stop and bach just before you reach the tombTravel Tips
For journeys to Hoa Lu Tam Coc even in cloudy days, bring sunscreen and a hat or umbrella. At Tam Coc, a little bit hassle as boat owners try to sell you embroidery or boat vendors ask you buy drinks, take photos. If you really don't like, just say no.