After a couple of days staying in the noisy but nice city Hanoi we planned to go to the gorgeous and quiet Tam Coc (as far as quiet goes in Vietnam). We went to Ninh Binh from Hanoi by bus (around 200.000D, $8, watch out for scamming!) and straight to Tam Coc by taxi (75.000D/$3 by meter from bus station).
Arriving just around 2pm we had plenty of time to grab a bite first and then jump into a rowing boat for some magnificent nature views. The area really felt like a smaller version of Halong Bay, with the rice fields substituting the sea. And since we arrived here just after Tết (New year), the usually touristic boat tour (Tripadvisor) was now enjoyed by many locals. We were fascinated by the gorgeous environment, the locals more fascinated by us.
If you’re not into boats, you definitely should rent a bicycle and bike around the area. You will miss out on the gorge but see similar rocks around the area. It depends on your budget and preferences, although we definitely enjoyed the boat tour. If you want to check out all the sights nearby, renting a motorcycle/scooter is unnecessary.
VEGAN FOOD: TAM COC
Although the small village doesn’t offer you dozens of restaurants, there is still quite some choice and most of them have a vegan-friendly menu. All of them offer meat but have some vegan options.
For restaurants I use the following categorization:
Vegan = fully vegan restaurant
Vegan friendly = vegetarian restaurant with vegan options
Veggie friendly = serves meat but has some vegan options
Bamboo Bar (veggie friendly) – $
For lunch we went to ‘Bamboo Bar and Restaurant’, the one on the edge of the village. The lovely people made us some tasty noodles with vegetables (first time getting radicchio in SE Asia) and got it with much more vegetables than most restaurants add when leaving out the meat. Next to noodles we had some more deliciously marinated fried tofu with shrooms. But do ask if they leave out the fish sauce, we heard the cook loves to use it. Great tasting vegan food and great shakes for an ok price. Around 40-60.000D.
Tripadvisor: Bamboo Bar and Restaurant
There is another (smaller) restaurant, near the small lake, with Bamboo in its name. Although cheaper it is not as refined as Bamboo Bar. But you’ll get big portions of tasty food for just a few Dong! Owned by a very nice couple and with great oldies and classical music playing in the background.
Tripadvisor: Viet Bamboo Restaurant
SHOULD YOU SEE TAM COC?
FROM TAM COC TO CUC PHUONG
Although Tam Coc was enjoyable enough for a few days, we did spread our wings and checked out neighboring areas. We rented another motorbike and drove to the enormous Bai Dinh temple and stayed a night in Cuc Phuong National park. Read more about my visits at the Bai Dinh Temple and Cuc Phuong National Park and its primate and turtle rescue centers.