Our visit to Trang An Grottoes took only the morning. We had a delicious lunch at Lang Khanh restaurant (yummy goat in rice wrappers with lots of herbs and sauce) and then visited the ancient Vietnamese capitol of Hoa Lu in the afternoon.

Hoa Lu was the capitol of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. If you are in the area I think it’s worth a stop. For me it was amazing to think that these buildings have survived hundreds of years, and multiple wars.

There is a big gate welcoming visitors into the city that makes you feel like you are stepping back in time.

Hoa Lu (6 of 8)

One of the smaller side gates

Hoa Lu (1 of 8)

King Đinh Tiên Hoàng Temple Gate

In 1010 the capital was moved to Hanoi and Hoa Lu slowly declined. There is an outer and inner citadel, but we only explored the inner area. There’s also a few hikes in the hills around the capitol. I would’ve loved to do one had it not been so hot! Thankfully the temples within the inner citadel had lovely gardens and lots of shade, perfect to wander and explore.

Hoa Lu (2 of 8)

Hoa Lu (7 of 8)

Hoa Lu (4 of 8)

There were  Coy in Half Moon Lake within the inner citadel. Calais and Randy sat down and relaxed for a few minutes while looking for fish. Calais was excited every time she spotted one!

Hoa Lu (3 of 8)

It was very pretty and serene. We all had a great time exploring the gardens. It is amazing to think that my short 5′ stature would have been gigantic in 10th century Vietnam. I guess I was just born at the wrong time!

Ninh Binh (6 of 10)Ninh Binh (7 of 10)

On the way out we ate ice cream (of course) and bought some fruit from a friendly older lady.

Hoa Lu (8 of 8)

And then wandered around the outer city so that Calais could watch the water buffalo.

Hoa Lu (5 of 8)

Ice cream and animals made for a pretty good afternoon for the kids. The walls to contain them made it a pretty good afternoon for the parents also!