We signed up with a local tour agency that offers day trips to Ninh Binh. Our trip consisted of a 2.5-hour drive over very poor roads in a mini-van with four Malaysian women, a French family, a couple of Koreans, and another family of some unknown Asian origin. Along the way we stopped at Hoa Lu, which was the “national” capitol for forty years back in the 10th Century, and where nothing remains but a temple devoted to the king who founded said capitol. It was interesting enough, but, frankly, I’m starting to get temple/pagoda fatigue: once you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. (Still, I’ve included a few photos at the end of this post.)
The real heart of the trip was a boat ride up a river that flows amongst — and beneath — the towering karsts. The beneath part is what makes it interesting and gives the place it’s name: Tam Coc (or “three caves”, which more accurately should be “three tunnels”). The scenery was incredible, like something you’d see in a movie not real life.
Here are a couple of videos taken during the boat ride. The first is a video of our passing through the first cave. The second is a video of the crazy foot-rowing by the boat people. (I would LOVE to see a foot-rowing race — I’m imagining those lizards that run on water…)
When we got back from the boat ride, our guide took Vanessa and I on a bikeride through karst-studded farmland. No one else in our group came with us — our guide said it was what she’d expected: the Americans and Europeans who come on her tours are usually up for anything, while the Asians never want to go biking (apparently they don’t like the heat and want to stay out of the sun to avoid tanning).
The scenery on the bike ride was just as beautiful as anything we saw on the boat trip, and it was so refreshing and tranquil to just roll along through the rice fields by ourselves.
And now for some shots of Hoa Lu: