Imagine yourself on a small boat gliding through a serene stream that cuts through a vast expanse of rice paddies surrounded by limestone karsts, that’s what you get when you visit Tam Coc. Often referred to as the landlocked version of Halong Bay, Tam Coc translates to Three Caves – Hang Ca, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba along the Ngo Dong River. Travelers hire small boats from the village of Van Lam with local women serving as both boat captains and local guides and are well known for rowing their boats by using their feet.
Tam Coc is part of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex UNESCO World Heritage site in the province of Ninh Binh and can be accessed by taking a 3-hour bus or train from Hanoi. Once there, you will be rewarded with a change of scenery and pace from where you departed from. Once you board the traditional sampans, you can kiss the normal world goodbye for a few hours as you make your way through a flooded landscape where the river and paddies merge into one. You may even spot local mountain goats and the occasional darting king kingfishers. At the end of your boat ride, you may ask to stop at the ancient Thirteenth Century Thai Vi Temple.
If you’re up for another boat ride, you can make your way 2km southwest from the dock to visit the cave pagoda of Bich Dong or Jade Grotto. Work your way through stone-cut steps consumed by the roots of banyan trees to the entrance of the cave, once inside you’ll see three buddhas sitting beside a head-shaped rock which supposedly bestows longevity to those who touch it. Continue further to get a magnificent view of the waterlogged scenery.