Limestone cliffs and rice paddies … beauty all around ~ Tam Coc Garden Hotel

We take the 9 a.m. train out of Hanoi, towards Ninh Binh in the countryside. The train is pretty easy.  We are the only non Vietnamese (falang = gringo in Latin America), and squeeze into our seats with the rest of the locals and all their luggage.

Two hours gets us into a region of rice paddies and majestic limestone formations jutting out of the paddies, creating quite a dramatic landscape.

We have booked ourselves into a small boutique style hotel “Tam Coc Garden Hotel” in Ninh Binh, which has a few exclusive individual bungalows. It is new and has only been open for a few months, but is simply quite stunning in location and design!

The combination of simple, yet elegant design, immersed in natural beauty, is just what we are looking for to de- stress!

Tam Coc Garden Hotel.  Simple yet elegant design.
Beautiful small ponds lined with black slate. Huge ceramic decorative urns in the center.
The design incorporates natural materials such as local stone,  black slate and bamboo.
The pool! Wow….!
Perfect temperature! Ahhhh finally some real vacation days and pure relaxation.
WHAT a setting! Glorious.

Best feature of the bungalows for me, are the super deep ceramic bathtubs! Each bungalow has it’s own private garden and is beautiful in it’s design and simplicity.
About to go on a row boat in the bird park to see the “bird garden”

After swimming and relaxing, we set out by bike to find Bich Dong Pagoda (known locally as Jade Grotto), a holy site of pilgrimage for Vietnamese.  The pagodas are built into the limestone cliffs and are comprised of three sets of small temples at three different levels, within the rock formations. The final two require some rock stairways to navigate.

This is the first of three pagodas built under and into the limstone cliff.
Lots of healthy dogs around.
Making friends with the temple pooch.

 Ben at entrance to second tier of the cave temples. Namaste.
Ancient statues of buddha are central to the pagoda temples.
Huge ancient bell with Chinese Calligraphy — before Vietnam switched to the use of “roman letters”

Day 2, we bike into the little village and through the rice paddies, to visit the oldest temple in the region.

Baby rice paddy, with rice growing in perfect lines. Somewhat flooded right now due to heavy rains.

Ben surrounded by water buffalo. Contemplating the best strategy to approach the baby.
Success! Ready to adopt a baby water buffalo. Complete with baby fuzz on its back.
Boats lined up to take tourists on the journey in between the limestone cliffs and through the rice paddies. Into the cave formations.
Small and tiny dried fish for sale in the little market, near the boat dock.
Given the government policy of encouraging no more than 2 children per couple (Vietnam has a population of 80 million ie one and a half times France, fifteen times more than Nicaragua) the cultural bias in favor of boys is strong.
Vietnamese coconuts seem to have way more coconut water than Nicaraguan ones. Sweeter too!
Biking through the rice paddies. Limestone cliff formations are just magnificent jutting out of the bright green paddies.

Temple guardian cleaning out the bird cage at one of the temple ponds at the entrance.
This elderly guardian of the temple forcibly put his hand on top of Peta’s head to move her down to his height for the photo…

2 thoughts on “Limestone cliffs and rice paddies … beauty all around ~ Tam Coc Garden Hotel

  1. Ezra

    These photos are amazing, I love seeing you in the context of these ancient temples, animals, and Vietnamese landscapes. So inspiring!

  2. Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell

    Yes and we would never had discovered this beautiful area had we not been drawn in by this beautiful boutique hotel that we heard about in Hanoi. Usually it’s the other way around, we go to a region and see what happens. In this case, we heard of this beautifully designed hotel in the middle of the rice paddies and decided to go check it out…

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