Tam Coc, Vietnam

The train slowly rolled into Hanoi station around 4am in the morning on Saturday. The sun wasn’t even up yet and I stumbled half asleep off the train. It was refreshing to see the city of Hanoi all quiet. There were a few people here and there preparing to set up work, but the streets were free of cars and motorcycles. It was the quietest day of this trip.

The door was locked and the lights were off at the hotel. However the staff were asleep on the couches and after knocking a few times they woke up and let us in. I took a long well overdue shower and slumped into bed for a quick nap. Another 4 hours and we’re out for a day trip to Tam Coc.

Tam Coc is also known as the Halong Bay on land. It is in the Nihn Bin area, 100km south of Hanoi.

I woke up to my alarm at around half past 7. I got ready and head downstairs for the hotel breakfast. The breakfast was really nice with many items to choose from, everything from the standard western breakfast items to Vietnamese dishes.  I chowed down a few croissants, and the driver soon arrived. We joined the van, and there were the Dutch couple from yesterday’s tour in Sapa! What a coincidence! On this tour there were 2 Dutch couples, 3 Vietnamese locals, and a British girl. The whole drive takes 2.5 hours so we made a pit stop in the middle. It was a big rest stop selling many paintings, bags, clothes, statues… anything you could think of really. There were also around 5 people sitting in the middle of the room sewing paintings made of thread. It was a really cool technique, a bit different from stitching something. Instead of crosses, they sew in horizontal lines of different lengths. 

The rest stop also had a café, but getting anywhere near the juice bar was impossible. It was 37C that day, everyone wanted a cold drink.

We continued south and soon reached the ancient capital of Vientma. Nihn Bin was the capital between the 10th – 11th centuries. There were 2 very old temples made of stone, and you could tell by the stone that it was over  1000 years old.


For lunch we stopped over at this buffet restaurant where most tours dropped people off at. The buffet had a really good section of food, and I was starving! Surprisingly, out here in the middle of nature (it could not get more suburby), there was wifi in the restaurant, so I took some time to upload a few snaps on instagram.

After lunch it was finally time to board the boats to go on the river. This is the iconic part of this trip I was waiting for. There were these narrow boats that sat only around 4 people including the boat rower. It was hilarious because they row the boats with their feet! It looked really leisurely but it’s actually pretty tiring. As the boat went down the river, you could see these tall limestones covered in trees sitting above the water. There were also plants growing out of the shallow water. It was probably nothing more than 1 meter deep. We eventually went through 3 caves and turned back. At the very end there were some water market people waiting, basically they had food and drinks on their boats to sell.


!!Tam Coc river Scam!!
Before we boarded the boat, this lady asked if I wanted an umbrella. I refused because I know what this is all about, she will hold the umbrella for me then demand money afterwards instead of agree upfront. Even though I refused, this woman jumped onto our boat anyway! I was furious but the boat left the dock already. In hindsight I should’ve shouted until she got off the boat. She asked if I wanted the umbrella again and I refused. And then she asked if I wanted a fan and I refused. At first I was really polite about it, but honestly I just want some quiet time on the boat with my partner. When we reached the water market, one lady asked if we want drinks. We always had bottles of water on us so we refused her soda. Then she tried to guilt trip us and asked us to buy water for the “poor lady” who followed us onto our boat without our consent. No way in hell. We refused. So the lady got all huffy and puffy, and just napped on the boat. She started saying shit about us in Vietnamnese, and the poor man rowing the boat was getting exhausted, because at this time the waman was napping grumpily instead of helping to row the boat. Once we got close to the shore, she poked both me and my partner with her fan trying to sell us some bags, and that was when we both lost it. We did not ask her to come onto the boat with us, and now she’s being rude, so there is no reason for us to be nice anymore.

This was just an awful experience, just like the indigenous in Sapa who demanded money after trekking with us. I wish Vietnam was less pushy to its tourists, it is a shame to have this kind of experience.

Scams aside, after the boat ride, we went for a short bike ride into the rice paddies. The scenery was so beautiful! The light green and golden field sat in front of various limestone mountains behind. I had my Vietnamese hat with me, can it get more Vietnamese than this?

We took the same route on the drive back to Hanoi, stopping at the same shopping stop. We got back to Hanoi around 6pm or so. I was drenched in sweat again so took a shower right away. My partner fell asleep almost immediately, so I proceeded to wander around the city of Hanoi. Because it’s a weekend night, a lot of the city streets were closed off to cars. There were many night markets and street performers. The streets lit with lanterns and around every corner I could hear different types of music. Sometimes Saxaphones, sometimes a piano and violin duet, sometimes a full band, and even traditional Vietnamese music. People gathered on the street to talk, eat, dance, and just have fun! There were even play ground equipment set up outside the modern art museum for kids to play on. I loved experiencing this, it just seemed like people were just enjoying their lives.

Around 9:30pm, rain came pouring down with no warning. It’s as if someone moved the Niagara Falls over the sky in Hanoi. I found shelter and stood there until the rain stopped. Some people were still on their motorcycles with full rain gear. Others ran and laughed on the street, not seeming to care at all that they are getting drenched in water. This is such a big contrast in what you see in a big city like Hong Kong. I really appreciate that the people in Hanoi can have such a positive and happy outlook in life.

I scrubbed off the mud on my shoes back at the hotel, then it was finally time for bed. The next day was the last day in Hanoi, so we’re just going to stroll around in the city.

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