It is all about limestone. At Halong Bay the tree covered outcrops rise from the emerald ocean, making it THE tourist attraction in Vietnam. At Tam Coc they stick out like pillars from bright green rice paddies. Hard to say, which one is more spectacular! We think it is best to start with Tam Coc, a two-hours drive south of Hanoi and then head for Halong Bay (even better to Cat Ba directly) since the latter might be the more spectacular one of the two.
Fancy some legends? Halong Bay means “Where the dragon descends into the sea”. The legend says that a mighty dragon came down from the mountains. By flipping its mighty tail it dug out valleys. When the dragon finally plunged into the sea, the area filled up with water, only the pinnacles were still visible…
Also called Halong Bay on Land… Most popular is the 1 to 2 hour boat tour on the Hoang Long River, framed by karst landscapes. Gliding through such magic with only the sound of the paddles hitting the water, you are at peace.
There are a few other ways to explore Tam Coc, each offering similar amazing views of the landscape:
- One is to rent a scooter and get lost on some back roads. A great way to discover the area! No worries, there is little traffic and roads are reasonably good – the perfect place for testing those Vietnamese motorbikes and enhancing your skills…
- Another one is Trang An Grottoes, a must-see, thus a very touristy place. Well, the landscape is indeed stunning and the boat-ride through the caves impressive. Often there is very little clearance, then the ladies rowing the boats must zigzag their way, so their customers won’t hit their heads.
- Van Long Nature Reserve offers a bit of bird watching, but above all a less touristy experience of these beautiful landscapes.
- Also consider climbing the 450 steps up to Mua Cave (Cave of Dances) and enjoy the panoramic view over the whole area. Best done at sunrise or shortly before sunset.
- For the ultimate bizarre experience, head to Chua Bai Dinh – a recently established complex of temples. The sheer size of it is stunning, although we did not really understand its purpose. Maybe it’s all about the Buddha statues! Count the small ones in alcoves in the walls, the large and the huge ones. The biggest Buddha weighs 100 tons! With probably thousands Buddha statues around, this will keep you busy for several days…
Please check our article “Halong Bay – Tourism in the fast lane”… Hoping that you learn from our experience!