From Hanoi, we travelled by train to Tam Coc. Travelling via train, it took 1hr 30 minutes and cost £5. There are multiple trains each day in both directions. Just a note, the train was late by over an hour. It seems Vietnamese public transport is a more lackadaisical affair than in Europe so be prepared to wait around for a while. We got the 5.30pm train that eventually got us in at just after 8pm. From there we caught a taxi to Tam Coc, about a 20 minute ride away.
After checking into our hostel, the Tam Coc Riverview Homestay, we headed out into the main square to explore a little. Tam Coc is extremely quiet and peaceful, exactly what we needed after the hubbub of Hanoi. There isn’t much to do in this town, but we did as much as possible in the full day we were here. We ate a dinner of chicken fried rice and relaxed with a beer (total cost £1!) and then headed to bed for an early rise the following day.
We ate a quick breakfast in the hostel, before walking the 200 yards to the river for a trip on a sampan boat. Tam Coc is described as Halong Bay on land, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Tam Coc means ‘Three Caves’ and is dominated by limestone cliffs reaching towards the sky and surrounded by rice paddies. A local guide pedals with their feet as you relax (as best you can on a hard metal bench) and take in the breathtaking views. You will pass through the three caves; Hang Ca, Hang Giua and Hang Cuoi. They are stunning, extremely dark and intriguing. The 90 minute boat ride cost £13 for the both of us and was a huge highlight on our trip. The photographs just don’t do it justice. Watch out half way through when the sampan floats to a little ‘market’ and you are encouraged to buy drinks and food for your guide. You will be hard pressed to get the boat to turn back without buying a little something. We spend about £2 on a drink and some nuts. Totally worth it!
In the afternoon we rented a moped from our hostel and took the 3km trip along very quiet county roads, to Hang Mua. The design is like a miniature version of the Great Wall of China and consists of 500 steps up to the female Buddha. It is a hard slog, especially in the heat, with some of the limestone steps reaching our knees. However, the view at the top is stunning. There really are no words for how beautiful and peaceful this place is. You get to see the whole of Tam Coc, Trang An & Ninh Binh city from the top.
From here we went back to the hostel to get our train to Hue for the next stop.