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Hoa Lu – Tam Coc Day Tour (Part 1)
February 9, 2016 Hanoi

After exploring the Ha Long Bay on the previous day, we were back in Hanoi for our next trip to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc.  Unlike the Ha Long Bay, we were put in the care of irresponsible tour guide whose name I forgot. So, my father and I were back into the crowded coaster. This time we had comfy seats because we learned our lessons during the Ha Long Bay trip. We left Hanoi later than scheduled which affected our journey to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc.

The crowd in the coaster could be divided into two: first those who booked the day tour to visit Hoa Lu and Tam Coc and second those who only booked the transportation to Ninh Binh. During the journey, the tour guide constantly coaxed those who only booked transportation to join the tour for nominal fees. I have to say that I had difficult time understanding the tour guide’s conversational English.

Our Hoa Lu Scam Adventures

After a short toilet break cum souvenir emporium shopping stop, we arrived to Hoa Lu which was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. I thought it would be fun as I loved history and archaeological sites, though my father is not a fan of temples and relics. When we disembarked the coaster, we were told we only had 30 minutes to explore Hoa Lu, which is a vast area covering 3km2. Too little time for a sizeable area?

Hoa LuThe entrance to the ancient capital of Hoa Lu

Entrance to Hoa LuThe entrance to Hoa Lu ancient capital

Dried water lilyDried water lily plant found on the bridge to ancient Hoa Lu.

Though there was barely understandable briefing made by the tour guide, he failed to explain the location of the two temples which we were supposed to see. So, we had to play tourists and follow the crowd lead to one of the temples. Smarter ones keep close to other guides.

Hoa LuYou can ride the decorated buffalo at a price of 5USD.

Hoa Lu is one of the tourist destinatons in Ninh Binh Province. In the 10th century, Hoa Lu was the capital as well as the economic, political and cultural center of the First Dinh Emperor, following years of civil war and a violent secessionist movement against China’s Southern Han Dynasty.

The capital of Hoa Lu includes the inner and outer citadels. It includes defensive earthen walls, palaces, temples and shrines.

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My post-trip research reveals that there are many monuments (we missed all except the Temple of Le Dai Hanh), as follows:-

  1. Dinh Tien Hoang Temple;
  2. Le Dai Hanh Temple;
  3. Dinh Tien Hoang Tomb;
  4. Le Dai Hanh Tomb;
  5. Nhat Tru Pagoda;
  6. No Dam Temple;
  7. Bai Dinh Temple;
  8. Thien Ton Cave;
  9. Trang An Grottoes;
  10. Ban Long Pagoda.

It evinced the broad day light scam by our irresponsible tour guide. Some of the pictures of Temple of Le Dai Hanh:-

Le Dai Hanh Temple

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Before leaving Hao Lu, I chanced upon Vietnamese old ladies trying to sell bananas by the main street.

Vietnamese lady

I bought a comb of bananas for us to snack over time as the Vietnamese buffet would be one that was not strictly vegetarian. We continued our journey once the pissed French couple who could not wait any longer for the coaster to drop them at their destination, left. They were made to wait for us to tour the Hoa Lu ancient capital. A word of advice, if you book your transport to Ninh Binh or Trang An, make sure it’s a public transports and not a tour coaster.

Cycling around Tam Coc

It was part of the package. So why not? It did evoke nostalgic sense for I cycled with the man who taught me how to cycle 25 years ago. Haha. I can’t help but be sentimental. We cycled to what led us through paddy fields, local shophouses and villages, all in the background of limestone karst spread unevenly on flat land. It is not difficult to understand why Ninh Binh is known as Ha Long on land.

Cycling around Tam Coc

Tam Coc

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Bich Dong Pagoda

Along the way, our irresponsible tour guide asked if we wanted to see the Bich Dong Pagoda, which is an extra to the package and that we have to pay USD2 each. Another scam success as I later found out from other backpackers I met on top of the Ngu Nhac Mountain that they paid not a single dime to go into the pagoda. There are three structures in Bich Dong; Ha, Trung and Thuong Pagodas, in ascending order.

Bich Dong Temple

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Ha Temple Vietnam

Vietnamese Massage at Bich Dong Temple

Trung, Bich Dong

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Tam Coc

Tam Coc

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Tam Coc

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