When planning our trip to Vietnam we had decided that towards the end of our holiday we’d like to see some countryside and coastline, and the famous Halong Bay was to be our final destination. Unfortunately whilst in Hue we learned that the Covid virus was at last going to have a negative effect on our holiday, and much to our disappointment Halong Bay was being closed to tourists. We suddenly had to change our plans and think of somewhere else to go that was within a few hours drive of Hanoi. We settled on the countryside location of Tam Coc as it looked beautiful and would be a relaxing end to our holiday.
The town was deserted and our driver had trouble finding our hotel which was slightly out of the main town, but we were wowed when we arrived. The guard on the gate literally ran and jumped over a low hedge when he saw us pull up, staff rushed out to greet us, the manager upgraded us to fabulous rooms overlooking a lake and they all couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly. It transpired that there were only 6 guests including us in the hotel, but we only ever saw one other couple. (We had a bit of a panic initially as we thought they said ‘sick’ guests, instead of ‘six’ !)
We had slightly cool weather, overcast skies and there was a steady drizzle for two out of our three days there, so Halong Bay would probably have been the same which made us feel a bit better. Undaunted we borrowed hotel umbrellas and went for long walks.
We only ever saw women working in the rice fields and wondered what the men did all day!
On our final day we didn’t need to leave until mid-afternoon and the sun finally came out. We borrowed hotel bikes and explored a bit more of the countryside, going off the roads and onto small tracks.
We also cycled into Tam Coc itself to find the boat station. Normally there would be hundreds of boats coming and going taking tourists on the river, and one reason for choosing our hotel was that it wasn’t too far away. We had envisaged floating down the river watching the countryside as we passed by, but of course when we got there we discovered that all boat rides had stopped due to the Corona Virus. We found the boat station and it was deserted apart from a handful of people. These two ladies were taking advantage of the peace & quiet and using the river to do their washing.
Hundreds of boats were moored up.
One woman was cleaning a couple of boats, but we were very sad for the locals who rely on tourist money to live.
Our lovely hotel manager allowed us to keep our rooms until the afternoon without a late checkout charge. They were going to close a couple of days after we left with no knowledge of when they’d reopen. Every day she made a point of coming to chat to us when we were in the restaurant, and very helpfully booked us a Grab taxi to take us back to Hanoi. We needed somebody who spoke Vietnamese to do that, because we had to go via the nearby airport hotel to pick up my passport that I’d left there a few days previously. All went smoothly apart from the solitary person at the airport hotel who didn’t understand much English and had no idea where my passport was! Anyway, she finally located it and with a sigh of relief we headed back to the airport and were on our way home. Both our flights were packed and it was a very different scene to three weeks earlier, as nearly everyone was wearing face masks. We reluctantly returned to an UK where people had been panic buying toilet paper, rice, pasta, and hand sanitiser. Many supermarket shelves were empty and it was a very depressing end to our holiday. We counted ourselves lucky though to have been in Vietnam just in time, and I would definitely go back to visit more of the country. As I write, I should be in India photographing tigers, but that’s now postponed until this time next year and the world is shut down. Nobody knows when they will next be able to travel, and life is very different at the moment. It will eventually change of course, and with that in mind I’ve just booked a trip to Bali with flexible dates. I look forward to making more travel plans that hopefully won’t be disrupted!