A trip to Hanoi isn’t complete without a trip to Ninh Binh. We spent a night in Tam Coc Ninh Binh. The following morning, we went on a day trip around Ninh Binh care of Tam Coc Banana Bungalow, covering its highlights. (Check out Sapa Vietnam as well for a day trip near Hanoi.)
Where to Stay in Tam Coc
We spent a night at Tam Coc Banana Bungalow, a secluded 5-star hotel near Tam Coc River for under USD 100/ night. They have the best Pork Spring Rolls in our entire trip to Hanoi! We also booked our private Tam Coc Tour through them for USD 69/person. Book your next trip to Ninh Binh at Tam Coc Banana Bungalow here.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Entrance Fee: VND 20,000 per person.
It was the ancient capital of Vietnam for 42 years from 968 CE to 1010 CE. Hoa Lu was where the future King Dinh Bo Linh grew up. The mural talks about his prowess in Buffalo fighting and how he unified the 12 clans or feudal lords of Vietnam to form Dai Co Viet. Together they fought the Chinese invaders. He ascended to the throne in 968 CE and made Hoa Lu the capital of Dai Co Viet. Unfortunately, he was poisoned in 979 CE by his chef who believed anyone could be king.
Before he died, the King made his second son his successor. Jealous of this decision, the first son had his brother assassinated (long before the death of the king) so he could be king. He ended up being poisoned along with his father by an official called Do Thich in 979 CE who was inspired by a dream. Since the third son was too young, the queen regent married the General / Commander called King Lei in 980, thus beginning a new Dynasty.
The reign of kings ended in 1945, the last Dynasty being Nguyen. Today Vietnam is a communism.
Hang Mua Cave
Entrance Fee: VND 100k per person.
Hang Mua Cave can be accessed through Hang Mua Ecolodge. Just past all the cabins is the long staircase leading up Hang Mua Peak. The 500 steps are justified by the view that you get of the rice fields, river and mountains is incredible. Unfortunately, it was foggy that day, and we realized that the best time to visit Tam Coc is in summer (April to June).
Tam Coc River Cruise
Entrace Fee: VND 120k per adult.
Boat Rental Fee: VND 150k per boat good for 2-3 pax.
Boats depart from the Tam Coc River Wharf. The boatmen are mostly women, and they use their feet to row the wooden oars. The 90-minute boat ride took us along a winding river, passing 3 caves before turning back.
How to Get to Tam Coc
While there’s a bus and a train from Hoan Kiem to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh, the most efficient and comfortable way to get to Tam Coc is through a private van or limousine. The meet-up point in the Hanoi Old Quarter is at 49 Hàng Dong Street.
The Klook Van dropped us off at our hotel in Tam Coc and picked us up the following day from Duc Tuan Buffet and Hotel right across the street from the Tam Coc River Wharf.