First of all: We have a LOT more pictures of the fantastic landscape we saw that day than I could possibly fit into this post, so go check out the corresponding photo set "Trang An & Hang Mua"!
In the Ninh Binh Region the main attractions are boat rides on rivers than run through the rice fields, along the limestone mountains, and sometimes even below through the many, many grottos in the limestone. We didn't have time to go and do all of them, even though they are supposed to be very different. We had read that the Trang An Area was usually a bit less crowded than the Tam Coc Boat ride, and that it led through more and smaller grottos. The main difference is, that in Trang An, the river is wedged in between limestone mountains, while for Tam Coc, the river runs through wider valleys and rice fields.
By the way, the whole Trang An - Tam Coc - Bich Dong Region is actually a UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site - the only place in Vietnam that got both of these titles.
So we once again rented a motorbike, got on it and drove to Trang An. At the tour complex we paid our fare of 200.000 Dong each and were directed to a boat together with two young vietnamese women. Our rower was a middle-aged woman with a very friendly smile, but no knowledge of english. The two vietnamese girls in our boat translated for us whenever necessary. There are two routes through you can take though the grottos, a shorter and a longer one. We had asked to be taken on the longer one, but I am not entirely convinced that it was what we got in the end.