Hightlight: Ninh Binh: Hoa Lu, Tam Coc, Dinh Le Temple
Hoa Lu used to be one of the many old capitals of Vietnam right before Thang Long – presently Hanoi took its historical role. From an exciting town and centre of cultural and military activities of the Dai Co Viet Empire in 10th century, the area now is more well-known for its landscape since almost relics of the urban excitement had been collapsed, except in the Temples of King Dinh and King Le. A trip to Hoa Lu should be started from Tam Coc ("three caves"), which takes more than two hours driving from Hanoi, 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. The boat will run, sorry, will be rowed, through three caves on the river, all created by wind and water from a legendary 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 keep 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 2 sides of 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 “On-land-Halong Bay.
From the wharf of Tam Coc you can walk further till reaching Bich Dong Pagoda, a combination of three pagodas on the Lower, Middle and Upper levels of a pretty mountain. You will need to climb a little bit till you get to the top of the Upper pagoda and your eyes catch the panorama of the paddy fields between Truong Yen mountain. All the pagodas, or lean upon a cliff, or simply have some statues inside a large grotto, deserve the name "Bich Dong" (emerald - like grotto). A scene of the popular French movie "Indochine" had been completed here in 1991, remarking a rush of the French - speaking tourists to Vietnam, who usually do not skip Halong Bay and Tam Coc - Bich Dong where the leading actress Catherine Deneuve left her footprints.
On the way back from Tam Coc – Bich Dong to Hanoi you can pay a visit to the last relics of the ancient capital Hoa Lu – 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 as 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 dynasties.
Includes: Transport, boat trip, entrance fee, lunch and guide.