Peace and tranquility at Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

After experiencing the very busy Trang An on Sunday afternoon, we made sure we were completely prepared to beat the crowds at the supposedly more touristy Tam Coc. 

Just as Trang An, Tam Coc is an area with beautiful limestone mountains but here you’re also sailing through the the typical Vietnamese rice paddies. In the season this makes for a beautiful green, lush view. Sadly we didn’t have the full effect as the weather wasn’t 100%, but our experience in Tam Coc was just as wonderful as in Trang An.

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We got up early to make sure we were at the complex before opening hour. But I guess no one else seemed to want to get up early on a Monday morning. The place was deserted. Like really deserted. There were no rowers yet and even the cashier wasn’t open yet. Oops.

So we waited.

Little after 7am, people started arriving and soon the cashier desk opened. Since there was no queue at all yet we weren’t very much in a hurry to get on one of the boats.  Instead we spend a few more minutes watching the locals go about their morning routine. Many female rowers arrived at the site with their laundry baskets under their arms and washed their clothes in the river before making their way to their rowing boat. I’m not sure if those clothes were actually cleaner after being submerged in that water but they seemed satisfied.

When we were satisfied with our people watching, we made our way to the boats for our two hour trip through the limestone mountains and rice paddies. We were the first boat to leave that morning which made this trip all the more special. Compared to the craziness of the day before, this was just so calming. It was just us in our boat gliding through the water. It felt as if we were one of the first to discover this area. Bliss.

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In Tam Coc, the people have a special way of rowing their boats; they row with their feet. And once again for two hours long our rower just kept going and going. At least now he had his hands free to play some games on his phone.

Other than in Trang An, we didn’t make a loop through the area, but went back the same way we came. Even then we didn’t pass a lot of boats going in the opposite direction. So either Trang An was very busy that Sunday afternoon or Tam Coc was very calm that Monday morning.

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And now the main question; which one did I like beter; Tam Coc or Trang An?

Honestly I can’t choose. It’s also hard to decide because while Tam Coc was a lot calmer, it seemed a lot more monotone than Trang An. I guess it didn’t help that for Tam Coc the weather was overcast while in Trang An we had the evening sun accompanying us. So based on my experiences, I’d still choose the hustle and bustle of Trang An as the site seemed more diverse than Tam Coc. But then again, nothing beats discovering a place without feeling like you’re the millionth tourist making the trip. So if you have the time and budget, try to squeeze in both. I don’t think you can ever grow tired of these beautiful limestone mountain views.

Entrance to Tam Coc is differently arranged than in Trang An. You have to buy your entrance ticket and then also have to “buy” a boat. For the three of us we ended up paying 585000 dong.

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