One of Vietnam’s picturesque tourist attractions is located two hours south of Hanoi, near Ninh Binh: Tam Coc, a river landscape that can be explored on bamboo rowing boats.
It’s a beautiful place, but nothing you’d explore when in search for tranquillity. Be prepared for a crowded and overcommercialized experience.
There is a great alternative, however, if you’re not in a hurry. Almost every hotel in Ninh Binh has bicycles for rent and adorable, hand-drawn maps that are by no means true to scale. File under cartographic poetry.
Bike west/southwest through rice fields and small villages to Tam Coc Lake (starting point for boat tours, a 90 minutes bike ride from Ninh Binh), then bear right into a little street to Thai Vi temple (Google Maps).
Leaving Tam Coc village, the dirt road quickly turns left into a silent, magic valley that looks like being exclusively made for postcards. And nobody is there.
Except you, maybe, some day.