The boys at our hotel were so nice that we decided to book a day trip through them. Most hotels in Hanoi act as travel agents and you can do everything through the receptionist. However we had heard that longer trips, such as a trip to the world famous HaLong Bay would be better booked through a proper travel agency who owns the boats and can guarantee a higher quality experience.
So we decided to do a day trip to Tam Coc, a river area on the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam that has lime stone islands cropping out of the river. Part of the tour includes being rowed through grottos and three caves. The descriptions read “HaLong Bay on the River, next to rice fields and caves”.
We started by visiting the ancient royal grounds, which was once the area where the capital used to be, before the capital was moved to Hue and then to Hanoi.
It was beautiful, but before we knew it we were whisked off to an area where we selected our bikes for an hour-long ride through the small villages, the rice fields and along the lush areas just outside the river area.
This was an indescribable treat. We could have ridden on the bikes for hours. Riding along the flat roads with the lush rice fields and looming large limestone mountains in the distance, we had to pinch ourselves – are we really here?
Lunch was included in our tour. This was our first guided tour of the trip and if all the tour meals were like this one for the measely $8 we paid, we see many more guided tours in our future. It was a buffet and we love buffets!
After lunch we crossed over the dock area and climbed aboard a small boat rowed by two people for an hour and half long ride up the river.
We leisurely rowed up the river and into the limestone hills, catching glimpses of everyday life among the incredibly beautiful landscape.
The scenery from the river was absolutely amazing. Picture perfect everywhere we looked.
We spotted beautiful and peaceful river tombs and pagodas perched up on the limestone hills.
One of the most exciting part of the river tour was going through the grottos.
We rowed into and underneath the limestone caves.
On the other side of the last cave/grotto we came to a large calm area where river touts casually peddled snacks, bottled water and some handmade crafts.
As we headed back to the dock we realized we have finally arrived in SE Asia and adventures like our tour of Tam Coc was just the beginning of what we'll be experiencing on a day to day basis. We could hardly believe how lucky we truly are.