With so much hours to kill before our flight to Ho Chi Minh, we decided to take on a day tour. A last minute decision that brought us 100 kilometers South of Hanoi.
Hoa Lu in the Province of Ninh Binh is Vietnam’s ancient Royal Capital (Dinh Dynasty, between 968 and 1009 AD). Aside from the visit to the ancient royal palaces of Dinh and Le (the kings who ruled during that period), another highlight of this trip is the rock formations. They refer to this area as Halong Bay on land as limestone peaks stick out on, where else, land—the rice fields, marshlands.
On a cruise down Ngo Dong River in Tam Coc, on a small wooden boat rowed by a fisherman using his legs, more peaks greeted us. We passed through caves as we rowed down the river. As we were not given any information before the cruise, I never thought the caves we passed through were actually the cruise’s highlight. I didn’t even bother to count how many or identify which one was the longest. I just enjoyed the landscape and hunched down whenever the boat enters a cave, making sure I won’t bump my head onto a stalactite. It was only when I was writing this blog when I noticed this information on the flyer I got from our Thai friend back when we were sitting by the Hoan Kiem Lake. In another brochure I got from the guest house we stayed in Saigon, it identified the caves as Hang Ca, Hang Nai and Hang Ba. And the reason why they called the place Tam Coc is because it means Three Caves! Did I really miss something the tour guide said on the bus?
I’ve been noting down the information he was telling us on the bus. I have noted that there were two kings and two dynasties between 968 to 1009 AD, that Vietnam has an area of 329,470 square kilometers and resembles a letter S which stands for strength and satisfaction and that the shape looks like a Vietnamese lady, that there are 8 million people in Hanoi with 3.5 million Honda oms (plus 2 in asterisk—one for him and one for his wife he kidded), that due to the climate change Vietnam already lost more than 3 kilometers of its land area to water and so their government sent Vietnamese people to The Netherlands to learn how to construct dikes, that North Vietnam have 4 seasons in a year, that South Vietnam have the same climate as Indonesia and Malaysia, that 30% of the 90 million population of the country are below 25 years old and that Samsung Galaxy is the biggest company in Vietnam. Oh, he talked about the food for lunch too and that we will be going on a boat trip after and even said that 2 Vietnamese ladies will be paddling the boat. How come I missed the cave information if any? Sigh!
The guide took us to a temple nestled beneath limestone formations and was given 5 minutes to visit it claiming we don’t have much time. We pushed our bikes to here only to see the fasçade of the temple and cycled harder and faster back to where the bus is waiting because the rain god already let go of the rain. An adrenaline-rushing way to end our $25-worth tour.
Personally, if you’ve been to Halong Bay already, I would not recommend taking this tour. Had we decided earlier on what to do after Sapa, we should have gone to Van Long Floating Village or Perfume Pagoda. A city tour would have been more interesting. But then again, it’s all part of the experience. You’ll never know unless you give it a try. And if we didn’t, I might have not taken these photos I just shared. (“,)