Tam Cốc

Boat ride along Ngô Đồng River amidst these karst mountains provides some seriously stunning views

Boat ride along Ngô Đồng River amidst these karst mountains provides some seriously stunning views

Dates visited: December 29, 2014

Tam Cốc, 62 miles south of Hà Nội, is one of the most picturesque location in Vietnam because of the karst topography. Basically, the landscape here is formed due to the dissolution of limestone giving rise to caves, towering mountains and sharp valleys. We visited this area as a part of a day tour combining it with Hoa Lư—both of which are a part of Tràng An Scenic Landscape Complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Our original plan was to see the karst mountains in Hạ Long Bay (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) that is 91 miles east of Hà Nội, but this time of the year, the bay is cold and misty with poor visibility. So we settled for Tam Cốc which is also referred to as “Hạ Long Bay on Land”!

Tam Cốc stands for “three caves” in Vietnamese. That’s what the boating tour is about… …as you boat down the meandering Ngô Đồng River, amidst the karst mountains and stunning views, you actually go through three natural caves (Hang Cả, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba). Some caves are pretty tight with just about 6 feet of clearance! The landscape shows years and years of weathering at work, and the texture and patterns on the rocks just leave you mesmerized at the natural beauty.

We got into the boat at the Tam Cốc wharf. There were several boats lined up and I wasn’t even sure what system they had in place to guide tourists to the boats, but there was a guy who seemed to know what he was doing! So we waited patiently, and as he motioned to us, we made our way to our boat. The boat rowers here have a unique rowing skill; they row with their hands as well as with their feet! No kidding!! I was just amazed at their versatility and the ease with which they would sit back, relax and use their feet to push the oars.

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