Tag Archives: limestone karst

Tam Coc River

Northern Vietnam: Lan Ha Bay, Tam Coc, and Sapa

With 15 days in Vietnam, the scope of our visit had to be limited. We stuck to northern Vietnam and didn’t deviate too far off the tourist trail in order to take in the highlights. We had two goals: to see lots of limestone karst, and to get a taste of hill tribe culture. Outside of Hanoi, we made three stops: Lan Ha Bay, Tam Coc, and Sa Pa and the surrounding villages.

Limestone karst formations are one of my favorite geological features. Limestone is porous and susceptible to erosion that leaves behind all kind of lumpy and bumpy formations. I have always thought that limestone karst landscapes have a special feeling. Maybe it’s because limestone is made of the skeletons of coral and other sea creatures, so it represents a joining of land and sea. Limestone hills can conceal caves with underground rivers and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. In the Yucatan, cenotes or sinkholes were believed to be passages to the underworld.

I had seen beautiful limestone karst caves and cliffs in southern France, Bosnia, and Mexico, but nothing like the spectacular karst scenery that stretches across Vietnam, Laos, and southern China. Seeing these landscapes was a priority on … Read more