It was drizzling as we arrived in Tam Coc, called the “Halong Bay on Land,” around 6 pm. Our lodging was down a small lane with numerous potholes. The Hoalu Backpacker Eco Homestay is located amount beautiful karst rocks and rice paddies and many of the buildings are wood with thatched roofs.
Trying to check-in, we’re told our room isn’t ready. (We’d booked a double with shared bathroom on hotels.com about 5 hours prior.) The owner shows Rob a different room, a bungalow with private bath then asks for another $7 if we want it. We’re already paying at the top end for us to stay out in scenic Tam Coc vs. Ninh Binh city and ask how long our room will be – his answer was 10 pm. Finally, Rob convinces him to give us the other room for no additional charge since 10 pm is ridiculous. Tired after a long day on the bike we finally get to pull off our damp clothes in our damp but lovely bungalow slightly disgusted with the whole situation.
The walls were wood with lots of spaces leaving it all open to the outside and you could hear everyone going on around you. The bed has a mosquito net to keep out the buggers. Everything was damp thanks to the high humidity. The wonderful rain shower with water pressure was the room’s best feature.
The only other restaurant within a short walk was a farm stay’s even pricier one, so we had a really great dinner at the homestay’s restaurant. After days of gingerly eating around numerous bones (Rob swears they chop the meat so that every piece has a bone), his dish is boneless “tourist” meat and my veggie noodle is covered with a layer of extra vegetables. Since the lounge area is pretty dead, we retired early to our bungalow and enjoyed the best bed we’ve had in awhile.
Rob and I decided to stay in the area another night but find a different hotel in the town of Tam Coc. Choosing a $10 a night room at one of the numerous guesthouses near the pier, we decided to walk and bike around the area instead of paying $25 for a 2 hour boat tour. The weather was gray and rainy with limited visibility, which ruled out any of the activities where a view of the area is a goal.
It started to rain harder as just as we decided to finally do the expensive boat tour. We took one look at the weather and decided to get the oil change done on the bike instead. Errand complete, we went to happy hour at the nearby hostel for a couple rounds of pool then hanging out with some friendly folks. We got dinner with them at a “localish” restaurant nearby. I say “localish” because there were actually Vietnamese people hanging around and it was in the style of a local joint unlike everything else. All the clients when we were there were clearly tourists. We shared a whole duck with another guy as that seemed to be the thing to order as they had a whole rotisserie of them out front.