Hoa Lu – Tam Coc tour – Ninh Binh district
When you are visiting North Vietnam, then Tam Coc tour in Ninh Binh district is a must see tour to make. The one day tour from Hanoi goes to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc, which are located in Ninh Binh district. The distance to this sightseeing area is about 100 km and the bus ride takes about 2 hours. Hoa Lu is where the temples of the first and second king of Vietnam are. In this post we focus on the Tam Coc tour. There are hundreds of possibilities and agencies to book for the Tam Coc tour at agencies in Hanoi’s old quarter or online, for example tamcoctours.com
Once you reach the destination you get out of the bus and get a small bicycle tour soon after. Don’t expect too much from the bicycles itself. They are old and simple ones, but they work overall. The cycle trip is only a short distance and no uphill roads. So you won’t really need a good mountain bike with gears. The cycle tour brings you closer to the mystic limestone hills and through the rice fields, a very quiet and peaceful area. A boat tour gets underneath the small bridge on which you stand. You can shoot lovely pics and videos and see the village houses, fields and hills. The cycle tour takes around 40 minutes.
When you get back and park the cycles, it is time for lunch. There are two types of lunch, the simple set or the buffet. The buffet cost two dollar extra. Included in that two dollar is the cycle tour, but I got the cycle tour without paying the two dollar. It seems somewhat strange that some are going on a cycle tour and others will be left behind for a while. I had the simple set lunch, which existed of rice, tofu, veg and chicken. Simple but good. The lunch time is about 45 minutes.
Tam Coc boat tour
After the lunch you step in the bus again for the 2 km to the harbor. Don’t expect too much of that. It’s just a plateau where all the small paddle boats are waiting. As there is a huge number of tourists, mostly Vietnamese, there are hundreds of small boats. Most boats take two passengers, but there are a few boats which take four passengers. The boat tour brings you through the rice fields all the way to a cliff, the bottom part of one of the many wonderful hills. You go underneath the hill, as in a cave. At the other side of the hill is a kind of pond where all the boats turn and go back the same way from which they came.
Before they start with the way back, the paddlers, mostly women who often paddle with their feet, suddenly open bags with souvenirs to sell. It’s all charming to some extend, but soon they get annoying when you’re not interested in their stuff. To get rid of the annoyance I decided to buy a fridge magnet. The next annoyance was the price of which she acted to be far from satisfied with.
Another possible annoyance could be the tip they demand when returning back at the start point. I couldn’t be bothered by giving $2, but the dissatisfied act of the lady started all over again, instead of showing thankfulness for whatever you give. It’s clear that many tourists are in no mood at all to pay a tip.
The boat tour is definitely worth its money. I paid $25 for the full day trip. It includes the transportation by bus to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh. The lunch and the boat tour too. Officially it cost $2 extra for buffet lunch and the cycle tour.
The day tour starts at 8 am with a pick up at your hotel and ends at 5 pm back near your hotel. That’s the official time, but don’t put yourself in some tight schedule with a night bus ticket the same night to Sapa for example. I came back at 8 pm from Tam Coc, a 12 hours day trip. When you search a bit in the old quarter, you will see that their is a slight difference in prices for North Vietnam tours. So you might find the Hoa Lu – Tam Coc tour for $2 cheaper as mentioned above.
An impression of a boat tour can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnsXr0oNKKA
Overall is the Tam Coc, Ninh Binh tour an unforgettable experience.