Visiting Tam Coc – Halong Bay in the Rice Paddies

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Tam Coc
Tam Coc

A cute nickname, isn’t it? Tam Coc, also known as “Dry Halong Bay“, “Halong Bay without Water” or “Halong Bay in the Rice Paddies” is one of the natural wonders of Vietnam. Located approximately 10km away from Ninh Binh, it is tourism destination par excellence for both Vietnamese and international tourists.

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Tam Coc – Halong Bay in the Rice Paddies

About activities, Tam Coc means “Three Caves” – but in order to clarify why they are so popular, I should mention that a river flows through these caves. Tourists rent a boat and are rowed along the river through a spectacular landscape which is quite similar to Halong Bay only without the sea. To one’s left and right side, rough limestone rocks reach an altitude of up to 100m. Sometimes, daring mountain goats climb up the steep rocks, jumping from one little un-overgrown square meter to the next. Amidst all this beauty, Ngô Đồng river flows tranquilly, water lilies and other plants growing ất its sides.

Tam Coc
Tam Coc

While these views alone would be worth the trip, the caves are even more spectacular. The first one you reach is called Hang Ca. It’s the biggest with a length of 127m and a width of 20m. Nonetheless, mind your head! It may be long, but its ceiling is only some centimeters above you. Shortly after, you’ll reach Hang Hai, the second grotto. With a length of 60m, it’s a lot smaller, but also very impressive. Finally, Hang Ba, the third and last cave awaits you. After 46m under one of the limestone hills, you reach a little pool where a bad surprise is waiting.

Souvenir sellers

Several women will try to sell you everything from bananas to cola, from cookies to kitschy souvenirs. Of course the prices are very high here, but you have no choice. Your rower won’t go back until you’ve bought something. Moreover, the annoying vendors will also try to force you to buy a drink for your rower.

Tam Coc
Tam Coc

The trick with this one is that he or she won’t drink it anyway, but will sell it back to the vendors later on. You lose a lot of money and the vendors make their deal. On your way back, enjoying the landscape again is hindered by the rower trying to sell you more things. Usually they now unpack some ugly embroidery and show it to you until you buy one. As you will never need it again, you should persistently say “No!” and give a tip at the end of your trip instead (something they will ask for anyway).

Nevertheless, Tam Coc is well worth going there – best by an organized tour from Hanoi. The tours usually include Hoa Lu citadel as well and cost around 20$ per person.

Directions: 10 km from Ninh Binh