Terrestrial Ha Long Bay: Day Trip to Tam Coc
We went to the nonetheless nice city of Hanoi mainly as a starting point to explore beautiful Ha Long Bay, both as a cruise and what is called the terrestrial part of it, Tam Coc.
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I’m not sure if it was because we were tired of planning and researching (what can happen when you travel long term), but it was difficult to find information about Tam Coc and the boat tours there. We are also not so good at just showing up and see what happens. So we took the easy route and booked a day trip with our hotel. When she told us about the tour, the receptionist showed us one of these famous pictures of the terrestrial Ha Long Bay (I wish I had found this page earlier) with the characteristic mountains and a lot of green crossed by a narrow river. “Yes, this is where we want to go”, and without asking much more questions, we booked the cheapest of the three tours offered for $22 per person.
The bus picked us up at our hotel early on schedule (a first for us!) and after picking up some other people, we drove for about 3h to Tam Coc. On the way, we quickly stopped to visit two temples, the mausoleums of the first two kings of Vietnam which look exactly alike apart from a few details. What made them special to us was actually the scenery around them indicating that we were getting closer to Ha Long Bay.
After having lunch in Tam Coc came the nicer surprise of the trip. Our tour guide got us all bicycles and we had some time to go explore the countryside by ourselves. There isn’t a better place to ride a bike than Tam Coc, where the road takes you through rice fields with mountains in the background.
Then we were finally heading to that boat ride, which was also a nice experience. You would think that it’s easier to row with your arms but Vietnamese would prove you wrong and row with their legs, which actually makes a lot more sense. It even allows them to multitask and smoke or be on the phone while on the boat!
The ride was nice, through lush greenery and several caves with bats and always these mountains in the background. Beautiful but actually far from the pictures we had seen. I did love it and enjoy it but there is also a slight feeling of disappointment as I don’t feel like we have seen the “real thing”. I ended up having a great day, I especially loved the bike ride but I also still feel like something was missing.
The morale of this story might be to ask for more details before booking a guided tour… or more wisely to live with fewer expectations…!
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