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  • Day27

    National Park - Vietnamese Style

    March 14, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We left Hanoi bright and early in the morning, after another amazing brunch at the hotel. (We actually got up extra early, so that we had enough time to work our way through the offerings at the brunch table, including pho for breakfast!)

    Our first stop of the day was Trang An, which is a national park and a UNESCO heritage sight. The park sits on the Red River, and is comprised of a series of caves that you can go through on bamboo boats which are paddled by women (exclusively). This is an enormously popular tourist destination for Vietnamese and Chinese guests. As we visited on a Wednesday, there were no lines to get a boat. However, on the weekends you can literally wait for hours to get on a boat. The fact that there is any wait is a little surprising, as there are 2000 boats operated at the park at any given time, and each boat can take 4-8 people. But, if thousands of people show up, I guess that there is quite a wait.

    In our boat there were just 4 people — the woman paddling the boat, our guide Tam, Arie and I. According to our guide, the women are paid a set fee per boat, so our paddling a boat with only 4 people is probably considered a plum assignment.

    We spent about 2 hours in the boat, going around the huge limestone mounds (very small islands) and in/out of the caves. Some of the caves were 250 meters in length, while others were 800 meters. In total, we went through 9 caves. As you travel, you can see that some of the islands have pagodas or temples on them. We actually got to stop and explore one of the islands, which had both a pagoda (for Buddha) and a temple (for the worship of ancestors). It was all extraordinarily beautiful.

    Given the natural beauty of the area, I was not particularly surprised to see that it was also a popular spot for wedding photography. During the course of our journey, we saw three different brides, including one who had somehow left her boat, gone onto a rock and was being photographed with her groom. Getting such a shot seemed a little tricky to me, but it is obviously pretty common.
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