Tam Coc Horizon Bungalows
The sunshade doubles for a barrier to whatever falls from the massive cliff above.
Nathan here, reflecting on the way to Hue about the miraculous time we had in Tam Coc, a suburb of Ninh Binh, a common stopover with some really cool things to do that one can crunch into a single day, or spread them out and soak up some of the last northern hospitality you'll get before heading further south and linking up with the more common features on Vietnam's tourist trail.
We stayed at this incredible place, run by Tony and Ana, called Tam Coc Horizon bungalows. The rooms were exquisite, especially the showers, and the view from their pool that backed up to their restaurant in a cave was of this monothic bluff ubiquitous to the mountains of Southeast Asia. Tony and Ana had set our room up with necking swan towels, rose pedals, and a free bottle of some legit dry white wine from DaLat.
We were also graced by the presence of the owner, Duc, whom offered to drive us to our next destination in his brand new SUV instead of having to take a night bus on my 40th birthday. Tony called him on our arrival after inquiring about our overall itinerary and ended up
saving me $60 USD on an already hefty price tag. We've had GREAT luck with Bookaway.com but this 8 hour trip departing at 10pm was not something offered, probbaly just based on price alone.
Logistics aside, Tam Coc had some really cool stuff to offer, like a paddled boat tour that went through a 1km long cave with maybe a foot of clearance above your head, and stopped off at several temples dating back to the dynasties that repelled the Mongol horde.
However, it was my birthday, which Ana gleaned from my passport, so when we woke up hungover/still drunk as lords, we were served this incredible breakfast along with a BIRTHDAY CAKE that had my name spelled out! They put the song on karaoke blast and a cone on my head. Unforgettable, and a testament to the kind of hearts these people have, to do something like that unasked for a total stranger.
THEN, Abby in her go getter nature was like, "lets climb 500 steps to a cliffside pagoda in the heat!" I made it halfway. She did the thing while I drank Fanta in the shade. The boat tour was a welcome change of
NOT a taco.
Goat is the specialty in Ninh Binh.
pace with cooler temperatures and way more to see. Once again, the scooter rental was choice and a lot of fun on all the small back roads, cruising along rice paddies and incessantly honking the horn, as essential to your navigating as GPS or the rubber on the road.
We ate goat both nights. They recommend stir-fry to tourists but OBVIOUSLY the grilled goat was way better and actually more tender. We also got some killer plum moonshine with our riverside lunch. Sorry, corn "wine," you've been dethroned.
The rain came crashing back after sundown, but abated by the time we hit the road. We got to Phong Nha an hour early and crashed out at yet another pristine hotel. Just like Bac Ha, the hosts in Tam Coc were undoubtedly the highlight of our stay, which says a lot, considering all the amazing excursions we've taken part in along the way. Thanks again, Tam Coc, and Tony and Ana!
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