I hate to admit it but everyone is getting a little weary of seeing temples. The boys were not too excited when they heard another one was on the agenda. After a few days of the intensity of Hanoi, however, we were ready for a change of pace and Rob and I were interested in checking out the remains of the ancient capital of Hoa Lu as well as Tam Coc. Tam Coc, meaning three caves, is an incredibly picturesque area of the Hoang Long River. The water is dotted with limestone mountains running along the riverway for several kilometers. We headed south for a day trip and yes, that meant another temple.
The setting of Hoa Lu, the capital of the country in the 10th century, turned out to be spectacular and we all enjoyed meandering through the remains of the Dinh and Le Dynasties set amongst the country river and rice fields.
You may have noticed that there are not that many pictures of the kids in the blog. The lack of cooperation we have been having in terms of their willingness to have their pictures taken is part of their rebellion against the trip....sorry its just their backs!
Just one example of river transport in Vietnam. These kids were maybe 5 years old.
Tam Coc is referred to as the Halong Bay of the rice fields. The Tam Coc experience consists of being rowed down the river and through a series of caves carved in the mountains that dot the river. Unfortunately for us, when we arrived at Tam Coc it was pouring rain and windy so the experience was a little different than it would have been had the sun been shining. Never the less, we hopped into the tiny row boats and proceeded to shiver down the river. In spite of the rain, the scenery was amazing. It was very cool to be rowed passed folks standing in the river picking through their fishing nets to retrieve their catch and through the spectacular limestone outcroppings scattered throughout the water.
We are getting used to constantly being approached by hawkers trying to sell us things and we certainly did not escape this at Tam Coc. In spite of the rain and wind, the river was dotted not only with other tourists but also with floating drink and trinket vendors approaching boats to “buy from them”. We have heard that these folks, as well as the rowers, can get quite aggressive. We didn’t have much of a problem but it did detract somewhat from the serenity of the experience, as did the pelting rain and wind.
The floating vendors above were taking refuge under the caves and as a result, we did not get accosted to the same degree as we normally would have.
What was just as cool as the scenery was the manner in which many of the boats were rowed. The men and women who row the boats (mostly women) often do so with their feet! It was pretty amazing to see them appear to effortlessly row and steer the boats with their legs and feet. We have consistently been amazed at how fit and strong the population of this country is. Our trip to Tam Coc introduced us to another example of the people’s strength. We have seen these tiny people (again, mostly women) carrying massive pots on their heads and shoulders, hauling entire store fronts on their backs and bikes, pedalling lazy tourists through the streets, toiling in fields, hauling in large fishing nets and now, deftly rowing the same tourists who get pedalled around in the city through the rice paddies and down the river – with their feet! No wonder they kicked the buts of just about everyone who tried to invade them – amazing!