Exploring Northwest Vietnam-best places to visit in Vietnam
Table of Contents
- 1 Exploring Northwest Vietnam-best places to visit in Vietnam
- 2 Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Hoa Binh
- 3 Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Mai Chau- one of the best places to visit in Vietnam
- 4 Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Dien Bien Phu- one of the best places to visit in Vietnam
- 5 Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Sapa- one of the best places to visit in Vietnam
- 6 The Rigged Beauty of Northwest Vietnam- best places to visit in Vietnam
The northwest of Vietnam is a popular destination for international travellers. This is a region where stunning scenery takes your breath away, hill tribes still today live out their very traditional cultures, history comes alive and the unknown can be explored. When exploring Northwest Vietnam- one of the best places to visit in Vietnam, you really don’t know what is around the corner, what experiences may change your life for ever.
The northwest offers the very best of what Vietnam has to offer. The environment is rugged and primitive, giving travellers a true Vietnamese feel. The limestone hills and dissected by the flowing waters of the Red and Gam rivers and the hill-tribe minorities colour the region with their pretty villages.
Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Hoa Binh
Positioned on the banks of the Da River (Black River), beautiful Hoa Binh marks the southern limits of the northwestern region. Located 75km from Hanoi, it takes only 2 ½ hours to reach here, offering some spectacular scenery in Vietnam. Its foremost claim to fame, however, more than its stunning natural beauty is the major archaeological excavations surrounding the prehistoric Hoabinhian civilization (10,000 BCE).
You can learn more about this civilization by paying a visit to the Hoa Binh Province Museum. It houses outstanding collections of archaeological artefacts, with traces the history of the region. This includes relics from the First Indochina War and landing crafts from the 1951-52 French campaigns.
From Hoa Binh the Muong and Dao minority villages are easily accessible. One of these includes Xom Mo, a Muong village where you can stay in one of the traditional silt houses and explore the nearby caves. Duong and Phu are two of the villages belonging to the Dao Tien, found 25km up river. You can stay here overnight but a travel permit is required.
Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Mai Chau- one of the best places to visit in Vietnam
After leaving Hoa Binh you can head up to Mai Chau, travelling through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery. The turtle-shaped roofs of the Muong minority dominate the first half of the journey here but soon the silted-housed architecture of the Thai comes into view. The Black Thai sub-group dominates the region but Mai Chau is one of the few places where the White Thai group can be found en route.
Lac is a White Thai village and an ever-increasingly popular overnight tourist destination. Located in a peaceful setting, the village may look a little designed for tourists but before your heart totally sinks you can find a traditional place to stay by wandering around the village.
Treks, hikes and walks can be enjoyed around Mai Chau. Whether you want a short leisurely circuit or a trek to really test your endurance levels it can be arranged here. You can pass through several minority villages on the way, spend the night in them and enjoy the beauty of this area.
Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Dien Bien Phu- one of the best places to visit in Vietnam
Heading further into the northwest you come across Dien Bien Phu. This may be a little town but it has earned a big place in history books. This was the site of the famous Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, marking the end of colonial rule in Vietnam.
With such an important place in Vietnamese history, a good place to start your sight-seeing here is the Historic Victory Exhibition Museum. Here you can gaze upon some interesting weapons and artillery used by the French, Americans and the Chinese. A scale model of the valley, photographs and other memorabilia can be found here. It will give you a great sense of the events that transpired. Then head off to General de Castries’ bunker which has been rebuilt.
The place of the fiercest fighting was Hill A1 (or Eliane 2 to the French). A bunker was erected here in dedication to the Vietnamese who died here. Around the back are the tunnels dug by villagers from Hon Gai. These tunnels ran for several hundred meters under the French positions and were secretly filled with explosives. They were then set off on the 6th May and the gigantic crater can still be seen today.
Exploring Northwest Vietnam, Sapa- one of the best places to visit in Vietnam
Sapa the Highlight of your Mountain Trip to Vietnam
Sapa is a true highlight for any traveller visiting the northwest. Only discovered in the last decade, it is simply beautiful, charming anyone who visits. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s tallest mountain, overlooks the valley, unmistakably visible from anywhere even when shrouded in mist.
Sapa’s natural beauty may be a little tarnished by the collection of new hotels springing up but the old French buildings still bring grace and beauty to the town. Wandering the streets a smile will form on your face as you take in the window shutters and pitched roofs with their little gardens of roses, foxgloves and apricot and plum trees lining the streets.
Places to Visit in Sapa
There are several great places to visit. The Sapa Church is a relatively young building (completed in 1930) but holds great importance. In the churchyard are the bodies of two former priests. One of whom was brutally murdered after a confrontation with a local monk.
Next, head on over to Ham Rong which means Dragon’s Jaw Hill. It gives you the chance to admire the amazing views of the town. It is also the setting where local minorities come to perform their own traditional dances. For the chance to learn and understand more about these groups you can visit the Sapa Museum. The Sapa musuem houses some interesting historical and ethnological artefacts.
Mount Fan Si Pan is three days trek from Sapa but is well worth the walk. This includes crossing a bamboo bridge which sways side to side as you cross before ascending up the mountain.
Sapa, Traditions and Cultures
Sapa has a wealth of minority villages surrounding it. Ta Phin Red Dao is a Black Hmong village. The village is set in a beautiful valley full of rice terraces engulfing the landscape. This special village can be found just past the abandoned French seminary, Ta Phin. Taking another trail will lead you to Lau Chai village. This is also a Black Hmong village, and Ta Van village which belongs to the Vay ethnic group. These villages are a highlight of any trip to Vietnam, especially when you realise that they completely made of bamboo.
The Rigged Beauty of Northwest Vietnam- best places to visit in Vietnam
The Northwest region of this land is full of rugged beauty and the vibrant homes of several minority groups. With its varying and mysterious climate, limestone hills and cliffs rising dramatically from flat plains, the northwest of Vietnam is a unique destination. The thick bamboo forests and clear blue streams and rivers, makes this region, perhaps the most evocative in Vietnam. Exploring northwest Vietnam–one of the best places to visit in Vietnam is an experience you will never forget.