The first stop after leaving Hanoi was a little town just a few hours south called Ninh Binh. There are day trips running out of Hanoi, but these are expensive and since it’s en-route, why not stop there?
Tam Coc is a beautiful place. The huge limestone pillars jut out of the ground rising majestically towards the sky. Trees and greenery fill the little nooks and crannies. The sun struggles to break through the clouds and creats shadows on the still water of the rice paddies. We were slowly paddled along watching the workers wade through the water tending to their patches of land, cultivating it ready for the next planting of rice. We were lucky to be the first people in the row of travellers so had an un-restricted view and just sat back enjoying the tranquillity as we passed between and underneath the towers.
At the end we were approached by a lady selling drinks who insisted that we buy something for the ladies who paddled us. I refused but Edo bought a couple of drinks knowing that they’d be returned later on. We turned around and started back and one of the ladies brought out t-shirts for us to buy. She kept pressing hard even though Edo and I declined. The ladies then stopped rowing and asked for a tip. I declined again and Edo passed over 50k Dong ($2.50) to which the lady demanded another note – after all the 50k was for her, what about her mother? When Edo refused he started tapping me on the shoulder saying “he tip, you tip”.
The tour continued and was loads of fun, but it was just little places that were pleasant but not extraordinary.
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