From the end of May to July, Tam Coc becomes the top spot attracting most of foreign tourists. In particular, in the last 2 weeks of May and early June, the rice field is ripe with large space of glowing golden color under the blue sky creating a beautiful scenery.
“Tam Coc” means “three caves”, also known as Xuyen Thuy cave system, which located in Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province. Tourists visiting Tam Coc have only one way to go by boat sailing along the Ngo Dong River. Through the river sections, visitors will see the rice fields ripe on both sides blending with the green color of natural beauty of the scenery, go through three caves (Hang Ca, Hang Hai, Hang Ba) and return. The total time takes about 2 hours.
Ticket price to visit Tam Coc now is 120,000 VND per person and 150,000 per boat. Each boat will carry a maximum of 02 foreigners or 04 Vietnamese guests.
Going to Tam Coc is a completely different experience from any other place I have ever been to. I chose to visit Tam Coc right at the end of social distance and the occasion of the “Sac Vang Tam Coc” festival (the golden Tam Coc). The number of visitors at this time was only few, suitable for anyone who prefer quietness like me. However, I think, even though the guests are more crowded, this place is still able to keep its peace because there is no smoke, no noise, separate from the outside world.
With guides or without guides, the local people will row their boats to take tourists to visit Tam Coc and show you their hometown proudly.
As soon as you get on the boat, the rower may tell you to sit and face forward. In fact, you can choose any direction, but sitting in the same direction as the boatman, the view will be clearer and it is more convenient for you to enjoy the ride.
However, the most special reason is that the rowers in Tam Coc will often use their hands and feet alternately to row to relieve fatigue. Rowing-by-feet pose can be a little weird and awkward for you and the opposite sitting person, so they will ask you to turn forward. It does not consider as a demand, the way they talk is cute and gentle.
When the boat had just left the port about 100m, I screamed with joy. In front of me, there were the green of trees on both sides, the yellow of the ripe rice fields, the clear water looking through the moss and the cool feeling that was hard to describe.
People in Tam Coc always support to let the rice ripen and wait until the week of “Tam Coc Golden Festival” to start harvesting rice, because this creates a beautiful landscape that you can only see once a year and last in a very short time.
After a “boot”, my boat went to the “eagle mine” area. This is a name given by locals because of its protruding rocky outcrop, which looks like an eagle’s beak. Right here, my rower, a middle age woman, slowed down the speed and asked me to pose, she offered to help me taking my photo. She did not mind giving a few turns so I could have a nice angle and catch the light.
When the boat entered the cave, I immediately felt the coolness of the steam and amazed by the hanging stalactites. I asked her “Will those things hit my head? Because the stalactites look so close like my head might tough them”. She reassured “Don’t worry! It may look scary, but it’s fine, just make sure you keep your eyes on the way.”
This cave is quite long, my boat went down the stream and then it darkened again. A weak-heart person like me will naturally feel a little afraid. My rower said, “I used to be scared, but I still see the light wherever I stay and know the way out.”
Coming out of Hang Ca cave is, probably, the most beautiful part of the river, because this is the view I often see in the newspaper, online pictures. The rice fields running along both sides of the river look like massive and soft golden mattresses. Amazing!
However, my guide said that the rice was less beautiful comparing to last year because during the first wave of Covid-19 epidemic in Vietnam, no-one’s boat went out, so the rats and perch destroyed the rice, causing many jagged sections. Nevertheless, I still think it incredibly beautiful.
Right here, I asked her to stop the boat for me to climb up to admire the beautiful scenery. A local household uses several bamboo to make ladders, so it is quite easy to climb. However, those who wear high heels should not participate in this experience. The fee for photography is 20,000 VND / person, paid to that household.
“Everything has its price,” this statement is correct in this context. From this part of the mountain, I could cover my golden rice field, some boats rowing through the middle of the river. I took a deep breath of fresh air, capture a few pictures and then went down because I did not want my rower to wait too long.
The ending destinations of this picturesque rice fields is Hang Hai and Hang Ba. These two caves are lower and shorter than Hang Ca Cave, so that is the end of the round trip, the boat took me back to the port. I was still a bit regretful, wanting to go for another round.
All the way from the ferry to my hotel for dinner, my companion and I kept talking and praising because Tam Coc scene was so beautiful; we regret that we did not go earlier.
Even the recent situation is really bad due to COVID pandemic, thanks to the effort of preventing the virus from spreading in community of Vietnamese government that bring me the chance of traveling around freely. I hope you all will be safe, healthy and have a happy life! Together, Let’s beat that virus!