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Foot Rowers of Tam Coc


When we boarded our sampan at the Tam Coc boat docks in rural Vietnam, I wasn’t expecting to see it rowed by someone using their feet to hold the oars. But this is what they – mostly women – do all day long. The sampans are guided by boat people who row with their feet, not their hands, and they do it so skilfully and gracefully that you can’t help but be impressed.


As someone who finds it difficult enough rowing by hand, I can’t imagine how they control the boats rowing with their feet. Or how they keep the oars in the water, for that matter. But their strokes are made with ease, there’s nothing clumsy about them. Years of practice, I suppose.


Located in Ninh Binh province 100 km southeast of the capital, Hanoi, Tam Coc is one of the most picturesque spots in all of north Vietnam. Visitors are rowed along the peaceful Tam Coc stream, past green fields and mountains and into the mouths of caves, where they can see stalactites and stalagmites shimmering in the semi-darkness.


A highlight of the trip is when the boats are guided beneath the huge limestone cliffs that almost touch the water.


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"Not all who wander are lost."  JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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