Experiences in discovering the majestic beauty of Tam Coc - Bich Dong
The Trang An - Tam Coc scenic complex in Ninh Binh is ranked as a special national monument and recognised as a world heritage by UNESCO. This place is not only a famous tourist destination in Ninh Binh but also a national key tourist area of Vietnam with beautiful nature and pristine limestone mountains.
Where is Tam Coc - Bich Dong?
Tam Coc - Bich Dong is located in Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district, about 7km from the center of Ninh Binh city. If you are from Hanoi or neighboring provinces, you can spend 2 days discovering this destination.
According to legends, Tam Coc was created by the sea flapping on the cliffs, making them erode over the centuries, creating many strange and beautiful shapes. Nowadays, Tam Coc tourist area has been built on a large-scale area, up to 350 hectares, including many punting tours along with 20 tourist attractions for walking, cycling and so on.
Tam Coc - Bich Dong. Photo: mittitravel.com
Places to visit in Tam Coc - Bich Dong
When entering Tam Coc - Bich Dong, you will have to buy an entrance ticket which is clearly listed as follows (prices in 2020):
Ticket price for sightseeing: VND 120,000/person over 1.4m high; VND 60,000/child under 1.4m high; free for children under 3 years old.
Ticket price for punting: VND 150,000/trip (carrying up to 4 Vietnamese visitors or 2 foreign ones; free for children under 3 years old).
Tam Coc and Bich Dong are two nearby tourist destinations. For your convenience, you should explore Tam Coc before visiting Bich Dong Pagoda. Tam Coc - Bich Dong is named after its unique and beautiful cave system: Tam Coc (3 caves) and Bich Dong (Jade Cave).
Beautiful natural scenery in Tam Coc. Photo: blogtraveloka
All the caves in the Tam Coc system are created by the Ngo Dong River - which has flown through the limestone mountains over years to form a "complex" of 3 close caves.
Ca Cave (The First Cave): This is the first cave - also the largest and longest one in Tam Coc system - with a width of more than 20m at the entrance and a length of more than 127m.
Hai Cave (The Second Cave): This is the second one in the system - a small cave with the half length of Ca Cave (about 60m) - 1km from Ca Cave towards the downstream of Ngo Dong River, so it is also very convenient to explore Tam Coc.
Ba Cave (The Third Cave): This is the smallest cave with a length of only 50m, but is considered the most beautiful cave compared to the two mentioned ones. It’s like a stone roof endowed by nature and skillfully honed with sophisticated features, creating a unique and gorgeous beauty.
Mua Cave. Photo: Gody.vn
A small notice for you when traveling to Tam Coc: it will take you at least 3 hours to travel along Ngo Dong River to see and enjoy all the beauty of Tam Coc's nature. That’s why you need to arrange your time suitably to make the trip comfortable.
Bich Dong is about 2km from Tam Coc wharf. The name “Bich Dong” was given to the cave in 1773 by Prime Minister Nguyen Nghiem - father of Nguyen Du (a great poet and culturalist in the Le Mat and Nguyen dynasties in Vietnam). Being in the group of "the most beautiful caves of Nam Thien", Bich Dong is regarded as "The second most beautiful cave of Nam Thien", behind Huong Tich cave (The most beautiful one) in Huong Son - Hanoi.
The picturesque Bich Dong Pagoda in the lotus season. Photo: vinatrangantour
Bich Dong includes a dry cave, located in the middle of the mountain, and a water cave, going through the mountain (Xuyen Thuy Cave). In front of the cave is a branch of the Ngo Dong river winding on one side of the mountain. The other side of the river is a beautiful rice field. Xuyen Thuy is a dark and flooded cave located along Bich Dong Mountain. The cave is like a rock semicircle of about 350m long, winding from the east to the west with an average width of 6m (the widest part is 15m). The ceiling and wall of the cave are mostly flat with large stones, creating arches and semicircles in various shapes. The entrance to Xuyen Thuy Cave is behind the mountain, opposite to the entrance of Bich Dong Pagoda. When leaving Xuyen Thuy Cave, visitors can go to this pagoda.
The beauty of Bich Dong Pagoda makes many visitors fascinated. Photo: trip5s
This is a small pagoda located on top of a mountain and was constructed in 1428, during the reign of the Hau Le dynasty. By the time of King Le Hien Tong (1740-1786), the pagoda was restored and expanded with the construction of Ha, Trung and Thuong Pagoda on three floors of the mountain. Ha pagoda worships Buddha, based on the architectural style of “Dinh” letter with sophisticated monolithic pillars with a height of 4m. Trung Pagoda is 120 steps from Ha Pagoda in an S-shape to the middle of Ngu Nhac mountain. The architecture of this pagoda is very unique, as half of it is inside the mountain and the other half is outside. With 3 rooms, Trung Pagoda worships Buddha as well. Thuong Pagoda is very near Ha Pagoda, and it worships Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (near the top of Bich Dong mountain). From Thuong Pagoda, you can see 5 independent mountains looking towards Bich Dong mountain, looking like 5 lotus petals - which is called Ngu Nhac Son, including Tam Sang, Gia Dinh, Con Lon, Dau Cau and Hang Dua Mountain.
Thung Nham Bird Garden
Thung Nham Bird Garden is located in Hai Nham village, Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district. With an area of 334ha, this destination has many beautiful poetic landscapes, including Tien Ca, Vai Gioi cave and bird gardens. Of all these spots, Vai Gioi cave has an area of 5,000 square meters, with 3 floors including many stalactites. It is said that this is the place where the ancient people prayed for good weather. There is also a bird garden that is home to many species of birds such as storks, lesser whistling duck, magpie robin, etc. Specially, two rare species in the red book called “Hang Hac” and phoenixes also live here. The scenery of huge limestone mountains by blue water with many kinds of birds is uniquely peaceful and romantic.
Ancient Vietnamese Village
Ancient Vietnamese Village. Photo: VnExpress.net
Ancient Vietnamese Village is located right on the way to Thai Vi temple and next to Tam Coc wharf, which preserves about 22 ancient houses that were collected mainly in Ninh Binh as well as in the Northern Delta area. Those works have partly shown the unique features and cultural characteristics interwoven in the traditional Vietnamese architecture.
Ben Dang River - Thien Ha Cave
The beauty of Thien Ha Cave. Photo: thesinhtourist
Thien Ha Cave is located in the Tuong mountain range with an altitude of nearly 200m, which is a part of the solid natural wall that covered and protected the southwestern capital of Hoa Lu in the 10th century, associated with historical and cultural places such as Nha Le Boat Station, Phat Dau Son Mountain, Dau Linh field, etc. With a length of about 700m (200m of dry cave and 500m of water cave), the cave has many rocks with unique shapes such as elephants, monkeys climbing trees, tigers, Buddha chanting prayers for disciples and so on. All of them create a majestic natural picture mixed with mystery and sacredness.
But Cave is about 8km from Ninh Binh city, 1km from Bich Dong Pagoda in Hoa Lu special-use forest in Hai Nham village, Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district. The cave is about 500m long with a very wide cave with many stalactites in unique shapes. In the middle of the cave is a stalactite sheet with a height of 1.5m and width of 2m in an impressive shape of a Buddha. You can also enjoy the wild natural scenery of rivers and mountains when coming here.
Stalactites in But Cave. Photo: dulichviet
Coming here, visitors can also travel by bicycle on bamboo-shaded village roads to learn about farmers' culture, experience handicraft jobs such as crab catching, buffalo herding, rice milling, pounding rice and so on.
Mua Cave is a tourist area in Tam Coc - Hoa Lu areas, which not only attracts domestic tourists, but also countless international visitors. Mua Cave has geological and geomorphological characteristics typical of limestone mountains millions of years ago.
Road to the top of Mua Mountain. Photo: phuotvivu
The highlight of Mua Cave is Mua mountain. According to legends, this is the old place where King Tran Thai Tong used to enjoy beauties singing and dancing. The road to the top of Mua Mountain is built in the architecture of the citadel with 486 steps. On the two sides of the path to the top of the mountain, there are many statues of animals representing the Vietnamese spiritual architectural culture such as “nghe" or eagles. On the top of the mountain are the towers with typical architectures in Vietnamese pagodas with sharp peaks and arched roofs. The dragon on the top of the mountain welcomes not only Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, but also dawn and sunset (according to many comparisons of visitors admiring the scenery from the foot of the mountain).
The dragon at the top of Mua Mountain. Photo: motogo
Transportation to Tam Coc - Bich Dong
Tam Coc - Bich Dong is only about 110km from Hanoi. If you travel by car, it only takes about 2 hours to reach the destination. The main means of transportation to Tam Coc - Bich Dong are as follows:
Traveling to Tam Coc - Bich Dong by motorbike: From Hanoi, you ride a motorbike in the direction of Cau Gie - Ninh Binh street, then follow the 30-6 Road until the intersection and turn right, follow the road DT 491C and you will reach Tam Coc.
Traveling to Tam - Coc Bich Dong by coach: You can take a coach from Hanoi stations (My Dinh, Gia Lam, Giap Bat) to Tam Coc - Bich Dong directly at a ticket price of only about VND 150,000/turn. This is the most convenient means of transportation from Hanoi to Tam Coc - Bich Dong.
Traveling to Tam Coc Bich Dong by car: Follow CT01 Phap Van Cau Gie - through Nam Dinh - across Day River to Ninh Binh territory, turn to Tran Nhan Tong street according to the signposts and you will reach Tam Coc - Bich Dong.
Which is the most beautiful season in Tam Coc - Bich Dong?
Tam Coc - Bich Dong always has a unique beauty in every season, but the best time to travel to this place is spring because the weather is cool - very convenient for exploring the destination. This is the season for tourists to pray for the luck from Buddha, making the atmosphere much more busy and bustling.
The best time to travel to Tam Coc - Bich Dong. Photo: hoidulich.vn
If you travel to Tam Coc - Bich Dong in the middle of May to the end of June, you will have the opportunity to admire the golden rice fields and the beautiful lotus blooming at the entrance of Bich Dong Pagoda.
Hotels and homestays in Tam Coc - Bich Dong
Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel and Resort: 5-star standard hotel with the cost for one room from VND 1.6 million/night. Visitors can enjoy free breakfast, outdoor swimming pool, spa room, fitness, massage, yoga, sauna and other utilities.
Tam Coc Holiday: 3-star standard hotel with more economical room price from only VND 500,000/night with free breakfast and outdoor swimming pool. The rooms here are also very comfortable and clean.
Tam Coc Bungalow: This is considered as the first choice of many tourists when coming to this land for the first time. Tam Coc Bungalow is located in Van Lam village, Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district, so everyone can easily travel around and explore the ancient capital. The price is about VND 400,000/night.
King Kong Homestay: 3-star standard with the room price ranging from VND 520,000/night. Utilities for guests are free breakfast and outdoor swimming pool besides tidy and clean rooms. This homestay is located near Tam Coc boat station, creating a beautiful balcony view and is convenient for outing.
King Kong Homestay. Photo: Agoda.com
Tam Coc Tuan Minh Homestay: economical room rate from VND 200,000/night. Each room is quite large (from 18m square) with modern design. The host is very enthusiastic, and provides guests a free breakfast daily.
Specialties in Tam Coc - Bich Dong
Ninh Binh mountain goat:
This is one of the most delicious and famous specialties in Ninh Binh that anyone who comes here will definitely want to enjoy once. All the goats here are freely raised in the mountains and fed with medicinal plants, so the meat is very sweet and tasty compared to those in other areas.
Ninh Binh goat meat. Photo: foody.vn
Ninh Binh Scorched Rice:
Scorched rice is a famous specialty of Ninh Binh thanks to its unique crunchy taste. The traditional dish in this land is a combination of fried scorched rice with goat meat or pork kidney (made into a thick soup with onion and mushrooms). Scorched rice must be cooked in a cast iron pot to get the even gold burnt layer, then they are dried under natural sunlight 2-3 times. Next, the rice is deep-fried and served with sauce to create a wonderful blend between the crispy taste of the rice and the sweetness of the sauce.
Thanks to its special delicious taste, Ninh Binh scorched rice has been officially recognized as the Asian record delicacy in the list of 10 famous specialties of Vietnam by the Asian Record Organization.
Scorched rice is a specialty of Ninh Binh. Photo: danthangtrangan
Coming to Tam Coc - Bich Dong, not only can visitors admire the magnificence of nature with beautiful caves, but also better understand its unique local culture and cuisine.