Ninh Binh is a province in Vietnam, which is more and more visited by tourists. The surrounding area is famous for its beautiful rice fields and high limestone rocks, and that’s why is also known as Halong bay on land. The main attractions is the karst landscape with caves, limestone rocks, among which is the rice is grown. We decided to visit this Vietnamese hidden gem Tam Coc.
There Coc is a village, located 7 km from Ninh Binh and it is the destination you need to visit in Vietnam. The name Tam Coc means “three caves”, and the name was given after three caves of Hang Ha, Hang Hoi and Hang Ba. Caves vary in size, while Hang Ba is the longest cave and is 100 meters long.
Boat trip: Tam Coc or Trang An
Looking for the Tam Coc’s greatest attraction, this is definitely a ride on the Ngo Dong River. Traveler reviews are shared as a great experience, and some think that the ride is too much touristic.
In Tam Coc, there are two locations for a boat trip: Trang An and Tam Coc. An excursion to Trang An takes three hours, and the boat takes you between lush green fields of rice that spread between limestone rocks.
The Tam Coc ride begins in the heart of the city and takes one and a half hours. The excursion is not very cheap, as it will take 120,000 VND per person and 250,000 VND for a boat. Only two people can ride in the boat, which comes in total 390,000 VND (15 €).
Due to bad weather we prefer to choose a shorter trip through the Tam Coc caves connected by the Nga Dong River. The most special feature of this trip is that the mostly womens row the boat, and they are doing it with their feet. The trip is very interesting in itself, and only thing it can be annoying are the local people who tries to photograph you in any way or they try to sell any of the things they sell for a high price. If you do not want to buy anything, they suggest that you buy for the paddler, like they are very thirsty, but the paddlers sell things back at the end for a lower price. At the end of trip the paddler will ask you for some tip. The decent tip is around 50.000 VND or more if you want. On a trip you should go in the morning or in the evening to avoid crowds on the water.
By exploring informations about Tam Coc, you probably encountered a beautiful landscape with limestone rocks, between which the river flows, and where the rice is grown? If you are in Tam Coc, you must add to your list Mua Caves, which are described as Halnog bay on land. The climb to the top will require quite a bit of effort, as there are 500 steps to the top, but in the end, every effort is paid with an extraordinary view.
From Tam Coc center to Mua Caves is about 7 kilometers. To enter you will need to pay 100,000 VND (4 €). The best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the heat and crowds of tourists. Enjoy the beautiful farm scenery on the way there.
Bich Dong Pagoda
Bich Dong Pagoda is located just 3 kilometers north of Tam Coc. Pagoda is consisted out of three smaller temples, and the name Bich Dong means a green cave. The lower pagoda stands at the foot, from which 100 steps leads to the middle pagoda. The steep path then leads to the upper pagoda. If time allows you, go to the other side of the hill where a wonderful natural scenery is waiting for you in the embrace of the mountains.
How to get Ninh Binh (Tam Coc)?
Ninh Binh or Tam Coc is becoming an increasingly popular place, so you will not have a problem with the transportation, no matter in which part of Vietnam you are. You can reach it by train or by bus. We arrived from Cat Ba Island, and for the five hours bus drive we deducted 300,000 VND (11 €).
Transport around Tam Coc
Exploring Ninh Binh or the surrounding area of the village Tam Coc is the easiest with a bike or a motorcycle. Both can be booked in most guest houses or agencies. Most tourists prefer to rent a bicycle, but we preferred to rent a scooter because there was no big difference in price. For daily renting a bike it is necessary to deduct 50,000 VND (2 €) for one, and for the motorbike we have agreed for 90,000 VND. To hire a motorbike, it is necessary to add about 50,000 VND for fuel. If you are at least a little skilled in driving, I recommend hiring you. The surroundings of Tam Coc is beautiful and the sights are located a few kilometers outside of the city, so it is easier to explore it with the motorbike.
Where to sleep?
The city of Ninh Binh offers many options for overnight, but the question is whether you want to be in a depressed place or you prefer rural areas. Tam Coc village is 7 km from Ninh Binh and is the perfect choice if you want to stay in the countryside and have all the sights relatively close. We booked our overnight stay a couple of hours before arrival in Tuan Minh Homestay in Tam Coc. We got an exceptionally clean room, excellent breakfast and extraordinarily friendly staff, for € 11 per night.
Where is it good to eat?
There is many restaurants with local food in Tam Coc. We ate at the Family Restaurant for three days. Extremely friendly family, diverse food offer, excellent service, good prices and always full restaurant of tourists
– when you come to some of the sights, owners of “parking lots” will almost stop you with force, so that you have to leave a bike or a motor with them. You can park for free in front of the entrance or where on a side street.
– You can visit Ninh Binh in all seasons, but the best in spring and summer
– from Tam Coc, we continued our journey towards Phong Nha National Park. We went with a sleeping night bus, and for the price of the transportation, we paid 300,000 VND per person (€ 11.30 eur)