Our fourth day began with a relaxing boat ride down the Tam Coc River in Ninh Binh. This area of Vietnam is referred to as Ha Long Bay on land – we were going in the middle of a tourist season, so our guides picked this area so we could see the landscape without millions of people around. It definitely did not disappoint. The boats were just small rowboats – two people to a boat. The most fascinating thing that we noticed right off the bat was how our rowers rowed our boats. Here’s a video:
The river went through three caves (Tam Coc literally means “three caves”) and they were very narrow – they were long caves, but there was not a lot of head room. At some points, we had to duck so we didn’t hit the top! They were so cool though – it was just this narrow clearance through a mountain so that the river could continue on its way. We saw people fishing and there were also boats going up and down the river selling stuff, like drinks and food. They were kind of like little row boat general stores. Our boat ride lasted about an hour and a half and it really was the best way to start the day. It was so relaxing and I think since we were on the river early, our group was really the only group on the water so it was pretty peaceful too.
We had a break after lunch and then we went to the Bich Dong Temple. Some of you may know that I sprained my ankle a month before we left on this trip (I fell down some stairs trying to point out a cat to Mike – classic Julie), so there were some things that hurt my ankle more than others. Stairs were by far the worst – not going up, but coming down. I really tried to avoid any stairs as much as I could. The Bich Dong Temple was basically all rocky, uneven stairs. I stayed below while the group went upwards. I got a couple of pictures, but mostly I was trying to avoid the ladies who were all trying to sell me stuff while the rest of the group ascended. There was a group outside the temple and a group inside the temple, so I found this middle area where neither group could see me and just hung out there. A few of the group came down without going all the way to the top, so our group kind of trickled down bit by bit. Mike and our guide, Quy, ended up going all the way to the top (they were the only ones who did!) and Quy took an amazing picture of Mike at the top of the mountain.
I mean, WOW! What a view! Mike said it was also quite a workout – it started raining on their way back down the mountain and Mike said it was welcomed.
We ended the day with sunset pictures in Trang An, which was just down the road from Bich Dong. We explored the area a bit on foot and were rewarded with some God beams at sunset. All in all, another fun day in Vietnam and another day of great pictures!