Tam Coc means three caves, which takes about two hours driving from Hanoi (110 km) to the South, and visitors may say that distance is not a matter after seating in a boat rowed by one or two local persons in Hoang Long river and see the first limestone mountains, which will run along their riverway for several kilometers.
Tam Coc & Hoa Lu
The boat will be rowed, through three caves on the river, all created by wind and water from a legend time, while the sea had occupied this area. The tide-mark is still on the rock about 2m above the water, and in higher mountainwall the erosion have carved some strange shapes that now filled of green grass, delicious foods of the goats that local people breed everywhere.
If you are lucky, sometimes you can see mischievous monkeys. The river trip is wonderful for photo hunters, especially when local people come to harvest the water rice planted along the river, or when they transplant some seedling for the next crops. The tourists often compare the place with Guilin – China, or more closely, to the limestone islets of Halong Bay in the Tonkin Gulf for their similar geological structures and shapes. Thus Tam Coc is also called Halong-Bay-On-Land.
Hoa Lu is very near to Tam Coc, is the relics of the ancient capital Hoa Lu – the remains are the temples dedicated to King Dinh and King Le, the two heroes who lived in 10th century and chose Hoa Lu to build the citadel of the capital city. From time to time, archaeologists have excavated buried parts of this citadel with rusty weapons and ceramics. The temples are said to be built on the old foundation of their original palaces in 11-12th centuries and restored in 17th century.
Though the temples are not maintained entirely some precious antiques are still preserved well like the whole-stone dragon thrones, wooden bas-relieves and lacquered statues of King Dinh, Kinh Le, Queen Duong Van Nga who in turn got married both of the kings, and the princes of the two dynastie.
Cuc Phuong National Park Vietnam Information
With 25,000 hectares and 140 km South of Hanoi, Cuc Phuong is the first National Park of Vietnam which was established in 1962. The botanical richness of the forest is impressive as it supports a wide variety of flora species and patches of primeval forest, including ancient trees with thick clusters of roots, and parasitic plants and ligneous creepers.
Some tree species have been introduced from Burma, India, and Borneo. Clusters of orchards grow near cave entrances, where the moisture conditions and light are ideal. Varieties include thousand-year dracontomelum and parashorea trees which can be visited in a one or two hour hiking, and coral, vanilla, snow-white, and butterfly orchids everywhere. Large mammals inhabit the park including panthers and bears, but rarely appear, so the most popular animals you can see are monkeys, gibbons, flying squirrels and pheasants.
There are also over 120 species of birds and many varieties of beetles living here, and April and May arrive swarms of butterflies. At night, million of cicadas create a deafening din, and million of fireflies flicker about. Lying in a limestone area, Cuc Phuong includes numerous caves. At "Nguoi Xua" (Cave of Early Man), two ancient tombs have been discovered, along with Neolithic remains and evidence of stone implements; there have been similar finds at Trang Khuyet (Crescent Moon), Thanh Minh, and Con Mong Caves.
Hang Dan Cave is known for its bat population. Hiking in Cuc Phuong is following some kilometers of trails and passing through old-growth forest with long vines wrapped around strangled trees, visiting the caves, waterfalls and streams in the forest or stopping over at a Muong ethnic's village. Since the location in between three provinces, it's easy to combine a trip to Cuc Phuong with a trip to Hoa Binh or Ninh Binh province, or you can depart from Hanoi, spend the whole day exploring the forest and overnight at the Park's guest house.