We won’t be saying anything new if we said how much a single movie can transform a place, make it famous, improve its infrastructure, bring more job opportunities for locals, and… herds of tourists who want to see the film locations of their favourite scenes from popular movies.
It’s hard to say whether Tam Coc and its spectacular canals, karstic rock formations, rice fields stretching along the Ngo Dong River, limestone grottoes that you carefully pass through so you don’t bump your head into the wall above, became popular after Indochine won the Oscar in 1993, and word spread that some scenes were shot in Tam Coc, or the fact that travellers were tired of Halong Bay and therefore decided to opt for a less known natural site.
In any case, Tam Coc, which means three caves in Vietnamese, and is located only 90 km from Hanoi, has become one of the top tourist attractions in Vietnam. The area is part of the famous Trang An Landscape Complex UNESCO World Heritage site. Tam Coc is more popular compared to Trang An, which means you’ll find here more foreign tourists. Yet, the place has some charm and it’s worth the visit.
What’s all the fuss about Tam Coc?
Tam Coc looks indeed like a movie scene. Rice fields and karstic rocks surround the Ngo Dong River. When you’re sailing through it, the feeling of passing through a special natural kingdom is very real. Vietnamese call Tam Coc the Green Sea, and you’ll understand why once your eyes witness the scenery of the paddy fields.
There are three of them (Hang Cam, Hang Giaua and Hang Chateau) and they were created by erosion of rocks.
There is a river that runs through them, and you might need to bow your head while passing through the tunnels, because the passage is only 2 meters (6.5 ft.) high. To see more natural grottoes, head to Trang An Complex which is only a few miles away from Tam Coc.
Rowing the sampan boat with your feet
Yes, that’s right. The local women and men row the wooden paddles of the boat with their feet so skilfully that it looks they’ve been doing it all their life. Well, some of them actually have. This special technique eases the pressure on their backs and arms, and it also helps them face a forward position while paddling.
Your Tam Coc boat adventure starts from the Van Lam pier, the route is about three kilometres long and takes up to two hours.