“Go to a place where you’ll feel at ease and most likely yourself.”
On our fourth day in Vietnam, we’ve had the chance to visit and experience one of this country’s greatest treasures. Which was a road trip to the Ninh Binh Province to visit its Hoa Lu Temples and a river cruise in Tam Coc. And if there’s a day tour that I would most certainly recommend for you to do when you’ll visit Vietnam. This is definitely one of those.
Just the same as I did in our Halong Bay tour, I’ve also booked this Tam Coc tour online, and by pure coincidence, both of these tours were booked separately, and it was only after booking, when I was about to check my e-vouchers, that I’ve noticed that it was all under the same travel agency named Halong Hanoi Transfer.
It was around 8:30 am in the morning that we were picked up by our tour guide at the Hanoi HM Boutique Hotel. Actually, the shuttle bus was kind of late for about 30 minutes; and for one moment, my sister and I thought that we wouldn’t be able to get some comfortable seats, but it’s a good thing that we were still able to for assigned bus was almost full by so many travelers from different countries like in Thailand, India, USA, China, and South Korea. However, despite the number in our group, we didn’t had that kind of friendly vibe to one another. Not like in our Halong Bay tour; it is because each one of us were really accommodating and friendly towards each other especially to those group of Filipinos that we’ve met on board.
This full day tour was headed by a very funny guy named Doc. At first glance, he may seemed to be so serious on the outside, but when he started talking to us during our journey. We were all quite surprised that he speaks in a very humorous and hilarious kind of way.
Well moving forward, the journey to Ninh Binh Province took only for about two hours including the stop over at a souvenir shop in which most of the items that are being sold there were handcrafted by the locals who are disabled.
Then an hour before noon, we’ve arrived at the Hoa Lu Temples. A famous historical site in Vietnam that were built during the Dinh and Le Dynasties.
Actually, the place looks kind of similar to “The Temple of Literature” in Hanoi. So when Mr.Doc was giving us in our group some historical insights about the place, my sister and I were at an advantage. For we’ve remembered some of the main points that Mr. Bui Duy Khanh (tour guide on day 3) had shared with us, and because of that, we were able to answer some of the questions that were given to us by our tour guide.
From there, we were all given an hour to explore on our own the temples. And since the place was less crowded, we’ve had a wonderful time wandering around while taking tons of photos. Then head off straight to Tam Coc for our buffet lunch.
It was a very hot and humid fourth day, but I would have preferred that kind of weather instead of the rain. Cause then we wouldn’t been able to enjoy our tour. After our lunch, our guide was already waiting for us at the Tam Coc wharf in order to assist us in our ride to the sampan boat. In which this kind of boat can only accommodate three passengers, including the guide who will row the boat using either their two arms or legs. The river cruise took for about two hours, and despite the blazing heat of the sun, we most certainly had one of the best time of our lives, and it was such an adventure especially the journey inside the caves.
Some tips for you guys, always make sure to bring a bottle of water and your own snacks with you. It is for the reason that such items there are being sold at a touristy price. Plus, if you’re someone who’s also very conscious about being under the heat of the sun, make sure that you’re wearing a long sleeve, or a cardigan maybe, and to wear cap; and if you also have an umbrella with you. That would totally be awesome.
To continue our story, I would also like to share some thoughts with you my fellow readers, and that is, during that boat ride, I’ve realized that one must definitely try to utilize and absorb all the stunning views of Tam Coc. Well, of course, taking tons of pictures and videos there are definitely a must in order to have something to remember. But the thing is, as much as we want to capture everything. We just can’t. So the best thing that one should do is to just sit back, enjoy the ride, drink something (maybe a cold beer?), eat some snacks, listen to some favorite music on your phone, and just take it all in. Because the only thing that you will truly gain from it all are the unforgettable memories from that experience. Including the amazing views that you’ve captured right before your very eyes.
Furthermore, I would also like to say a huge “Cam On” or “Thank You” to the woman who was assigned to row the boat for us. That despite our language barrier, we were still able to communicate through our smiles and hand gestures. And by the way, giving some free snacks and tips to the rower is somewhat optional. But in our case, we were so grateful to her that we didn’t mind giving something extra because it was all worth it.
Back at the dock, Mr.Doc was already waiting for all of us in our group to assist us individually in choosing the bicycles that we will be using for our Do-it-yourself exploring in the small town village of Tam Coc. But the bicycle experience are for those who really knows how to ride the bike. So if you don’t know how to ride it, then the tour guide will give you the one hour free time to explore the small town village by walking.
At first I was somewhat hesitant to do it because it’s been years since I’ve ridden a bicycle. So I was totally nervous. But upon hopping on and moving forward. I was profoundly enchanted of everything around me. Almost to the point that I can’t believe that I was actually doing it. The first stop was at the center of the village, and then we went along the highway road going to the rice field of Bich Dong with an overview of the mountains of Tam Coc.
It was most certainly one of the best highlights of our trip in Vietnam. Even I was kind of imagining that I was Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love”; cycling around the countryside, and greeting “Xin Chao!” to the locals every time we pass them on the road. Well I wish we could have explore more of the rural village. But we were on a schedule, and we have to get back to our meeting area as to where our shuttle bus was waiting to take us back to Hanoi. And during our journey, while I was looking outside the window of the bus, I’ve had this overwhelming feeling deep inside of me because that experience alone was definitely one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done as a traveler, and it was entirely unforgettable.
Exploring the Small Town Village of Tam Coc
Then at 6:30pm, we’ve arrived back to the city and were dropped off at our respective hotels.
So for our free time in the evening, Fatimah and I went out again to eat some dinner at a local restaurant that was just a walking distance from the hotel. I’ve ordered a “Dried Beef Salad”, and for my sister, she ordered the “Bird Salad”. But mine was more delicious than hers.
It was still an early night, and the streets had gotten a bit quiet and less crowded since the night market is only available during the weekends. And because we still want to utilize our time, we went out again to explore every nook and corner of the old quarter, and to continue buying some souvenirs. Cause by tomorrow morning, we would have to start packing our things for it’s our last day in Vietnam before we head back home to the Philippines.
The Rice Field of Bich Dong
The thing is that during those times that we were wandering in that area, both my sister and I felt somewhat emotional again. For the reason that we still can’t believe that we’ve mostly accomplished all of the things that we’ve planned for months. Furthermore, we know that deep down, we will surely going to miss everything about Vietnam; including those people that we’ve met, the food that we ate, the places that we’ve explored, the night market, and also some insights that we’ve learned.
Moreover, it feels so surreal that we were only there for about a number of days; because it felt like we were there for a long period of time. I guess it really shows that we’ve had such a wonderful time.
And that my friend is how our favorite and memorable fourth day had turned out to be.
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Hoan Kiem Lake
The Vietnamese Version of Chicken and Beef Salad
And below are the links that would direct you to the Vietnam Project Series.
Thank you so much for reading.