Nimh Binh and Tam Coc, Vietnam travel tips

Tourism is just picking up speed in Tam Coc and Nimh Binh, Vietnam. Older guidebooks list hotels in the main town, Nimh Binh, and most are small, geared towards the independent backpacker and Vietnamese. A lot of newer, schnazzier hotels have sprung up near the river access in Tam Coc, catering to tour groups and an older crowd. The towns are changing fast.

Read on for travel tips.

Where we ate:

  • Hang Coui – Near the boat landing at Tam Coc, this is one of the restaurants that will let you park your bike for free so long as you promise to grab a drink when you are done with the boat ride. Unfortunately, their food was near inedible for oversalting and overgreasing. Stick with a beer: NAH
  • Xuan Hoa Hotel – The Lonely Planet raved about this place. It was bland, everyone was pouring on the chili sauce in desperation. It would have been a decent place to meet other travelers if we all weren’t so miserable over the food: NAH
  • Thao Son Quan, Le Hong Phong at Tran Hung Dao – Having reached a point of absolute culinary desperation, we wandered around the uninspiring town looking for a decent restaurant. No one was eating anywhere. We gave up and walked into this place at random and the food was awesome…for Nimh Binh: YEH
  • Tofu in tomato at Thao Son Quan, Nimh Binh, Vietnam
    Tofu in tomato at Thao Son Quan, Nimh Binh, Vietnam | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Where we stayed:

  • Hoang Hai Hotel – This hotel seems to attract a lot of tour groups for overnight stays and power lunching businessmen throwing back more booze than food. Probably because the food in the hotel restaurant was mediocre. Hotel-wise it was nothing special: MEH

What we saw:

  • Bich Dong Pagoda a.k.a. Jade Grotto – A nice stop on your bike ride through the Tam Coc karst area. It’s too small to go as part of a tour group, and so if you see one when you arrive, try to wait for them to leave: YEH
  • Fantastic, jaunty sign at Bich Dong Pagoda, Tam Coc, Vietnam
    Fantastic, jaunty sign at Bich Dong Pagoda | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Streets of Nimh Binh – Though the main highway through town is a miserable, noisy, filthy-aired stretch, Nimh Binh’s side streets are interesting to wander around. Nimh Binh is a busy, growing town with a lot of Vietnamese passing through. Check it out: YEH
  • Stylish sidewalk barbershop, Nimh Binh, Vietnam
    Stylish sidewalk barbershop, Nimh Binh, Vietnam | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Ngo Dong River boat ride, Tam Coc – Despite the touting at the turn around point where your boat is surrounded by other boats selling food and drink, and the push by your boat rower to buy lacy things only fit for your grandma’s grandma, the scenery more than makes it worth the trip: YEH