06 May 2007

Hoa Lu and Tam Coc, South of Hanoi, Vietnam

Our 2 hour trip to Hoa Lu, south of Hanoi began just like every day... we got up at 7:00am for an early morning depart. By this stage Nick was questioning whether we were on a holiday because for him a holiday is about sleeping in and relaxation. For me it was easy to get up early because there is so much to explore and I was also very "click happy".

Hoa Lu, was the ancient capital of Vietnam during the 10th century and today it is also known as "Halong Bay on land." When you see the sky shots of Halong Bay and Hoa Lu they are amazingly identical, the only difference is that the islands are surounded by water in Halong Bay, and in Hao Lu, the mountains are surrounded in lush, greenery. Truly, the island and mountains structure and placement are identical - amazing!

We stopped in at Dinh and Le Dynastic Temple. Another gorgeous, traditional Confusious temple with all the bells and whistles. It was settled beneath the beautiful mountain range and the scenery around the nearby village was gorgeous. Perfect for my click happy fingers!

Our driver than wound his way through the small country villages nestled in amongs the limestone mountains... some of the roads were so small that I was sure we could reach out and touch the walls of the houses as we drove by. As usual in the country side of Vietnam we saw cows, buffalos, goats and dogs meandering along and across the roads, land and waterways.

Once we arrived at Van Lam Village we stopped in to have lunch at another local village, the speciality of the area is its goat dishes. I was a little hesitant but after trying some of the dishes, goat was actually mouth watering - especially cooked with all the Vietnamese spices.

After lunch we hopped on a Sampan for a spectacular 2 hour cruise through numerous waterways, beautiful rural landscape of limestone cliffs and rice paddies, to the stunning Tam Coc caves - Tam means 3 and Coc means caves. It was a funny boat ride because once out of the eye of the authorities, locals were on the water being very entrepernerial - people offering to take your photograph; tuck shop on the water with crisps, fruit and cold drinks and craft markets selling anything from handmade bags to tablecloths.

As we passed others we realised that we will soon be in the same situation as they were... we were a captured audience! Our Sampan driver offered a range of handmade products from pillow cases to t-shirts. The driver opened up her silver box and tried to sell us everything even going as far as showing us photos of her family and her children. They were not going to let us get away easily. I bought 2 little hand sewn bags... it was difficult to say no. They're definitely not shy.

After our sampan cruise we headed back to Hanoi to prepare for a 13 hour, overnight train ride to Danang, not far from Hoi An, which was our next stop.

Feel free to check out more sights of Hoa Lu and Tam Coc in my online photo album - click on the link below.

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