Karsts in the Haze….Tam Coc & Trang An, Vietnam

Wednesday we took a 6 am train to Ninh Binh.  Just 2 hours south of Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a popular tourist destination for its karst formations.  The area is often called the Ha Long Bay of land.  We walked from the train station to our hotel and rented two one speed bikes for about $2.  The hotel gave us a map and we headed off toward Tam Coc to see the rocks by boat.  Once again, the map was pretty terrible, but we only got lost once.  On the way, we stopped at Hang Mua, a great viewpoint of the area.  We climbed 500 pretty steep and crumbling steps to reach a pagoda at the top.  The view was fabulous and we could see the boats far below.

IMG_0458.JPG IMG_0456.JPG IMG_0440.JPG IMG_0446.JPG

We descended the stairs, much faster than we ascended, and rode our bikes further south to Tam Coc.  We hired a boat, with a lady who rowed with her feet and took a 2 hour trip out into the limestone karsts.  We had heard some complaints that this is very touristy and you get hassled by your lady to buy her handicrafts and by other boats to buy drinks and snacks, but we had a pleasant experience.  It was the late afternoon and our driver must have been tired because we went slow and were only hassled a little at the turn around point by the other boats.  There were lots of ducks and we saw some kingfishers (?) and mountain goats, which is a local specialty.

IMG_0436.JPG IMG_0449.JPG IMG_0450.JPG IMG_0438.JPG

On the ride back, we encountered some interesting practices.  It appears that every evening, right before sunset, the excess part of the rice plant is piled up and burnt.  This makes an incredible amount of smoke and could probably be one of the reasons it’s so hazy here, just a thought.  We biked back to the hotel, arriving just before the sunset, luckily, since there are not many street lights and the road was pretty bumpy in parts.

IMG_0439.JPG

IMG_0443.JPG

They use every available flat space to dry the rice.

IMG_0453.JPG

The next day, we rented bikes again and rode to Hua Lu, an ancient capital to the north, nestled in the karsts.  We climbed another 250 steps here for a view of a few temples and what is left of the city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_0437.JPG

IMG_0445.JPG

IMG_0461.JPG

IMG_0457.JPG

IMG_0451.JPG

Then we rode to Trang An, the less visited version of Tam Coc.  We were told this would be less touristy and cheaper, but in reality, we found it to be more touristy and only $4 cheaper for both of us.  And we had to share a boat with 3 very loud tourists.  So we liked Tam Coc better, though the caves in Trang An were pretty impressive, though very tight.  We had to duck on multiple occasions to get through.

IMG_0448.JPG

IMG_0447.JPG

IMG_0444.JPG

IMG_0460.JPGWe rode back to Ninh Binh in time to catch our train back to Hanoi that evening.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s