It seems that Vietnamese people working in the tourist industry use a western name to make it easier for tourists, and Tracy our accommodation host is no different. She is wonderfully helpful and we would highly recommend anyone staying in Hanoi to check out The Rising Dragon Legend hotel, great value and located right in the centre of the old town.
We are keen to get out of the city for a day and see some more of Vietnam and Tracy helps us to select a day trip by a company called GoAsiaTravel.com to visit Tam Coc (at a price that was lower than we could have booked direct). It is a bit more on the ‘National Lampoon Day Trip’ side of tourism than we normally go for, but our guide Kim and Tam Coc itself more than make up for the forced break on the way at a basically a large souvenir shop and the tour bus filled buffet lunch stop.
As you start to approach the destination the scenery certainly lives up to the guidebooks claim of ‘surreal beauty’. The alternative name for the area is dry Halong Bay, and the same large limestone peaks rise up out of the pan flat rice paddy fields all round creating a stunning vista. Tam Coc literally means ‘three caves’, and the main attraction here is a 2 hour boat ride on a river that runs through the landscape passing through 3 caves. Though we think that the second in line attraction is the local people that row the boats up the river.
Normally someone rowing a boat would not be that noteworthy, but it is only when your turn round to see that they use their feet not their arms that you take notice. A strange sight indeed, with two different techniques on show as they either adopt a breaststroke style two legs at the same time approach, or an alternating leg approach that looks like riding a bike.
The only really negative aspects of reading the reviews online about the experience were that the people on the river could hassle their captive audience to buy textiles, food etc. We got away lightly, perhaps partly due to the fact we had shared our water and sweets with the lady as we had gone along.
Even better the weather had decided to stop doing its ‘Manchester in February’ impression and we got to spend a wonderfully relaxing time drifting along taking in our surroundings.