Bushbaby Travel: Inspiring travel for life
Halong Bay, Courtesy Shutterstock

Northern Vietnam, Vietnam

With its mist-shrouded mountains, cascading rice terraces and dramatic, karst topography, Northern Vietnam’s striking landscape is arguably its most impressive feature. Bordering China to the north, Laos to the west and with the shimmering coastline to the east, it’s a melting pot of cultures with vast and varied scenery.

Hanoi, the country’s beautiful yet chaotic capital, is a natural starting point for visitors drawn to the mountainous north. Full of bustle, this French colonial city is more attractive than sprawling Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in the south, and has colonial architecture and vibrant street life in spades.

Mopeds nip at your heels as you wind through the Old Quarter’s market streets, where you can haggle over silk or slurp Pho soup. City highlights include Hoan Kiem lake with its island pagoda, Hoa Lo prison, the Temple of Literature (dedicated to Confucius), the Vietnam National Museum of History and the imposing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the embalmed body of the father of modern Vietnam lies.

Dramatic scenery awaits in Sapa, a former French hill station in the northwest, which lies in the shadow of Fansipan, Indochina’s tallest mountain. Hiking is the best way to see its paddy field patchwork, plunging valleys and remote hill-tribe villages.

In the northeast, don’t miss the Ba Be National Park with its tranquil lakes and tumbling waterfalls. Crane your neck to take in the towering limestone mountains, wander through dense evergreen forests and pick out some of its 550 species of plant and 353 species of butterfly.

Just over 100 miles east of Hanoi lie the craggy islands of Halong Bay, a World Heritage Site. This seascape of scattered limestone towers – stretching for 43,400 hectares – is what attracts so many here for overnight cruises. Adventurous clans can swim off from their junk, or kayak through the emerald-green water, exploring its hidden caves and islands, visiting floating villages and spotting oyster pearl farms along the way. Spend your spare time squid fishing, relaxing on your boat’s sundeck or tucking into a meal as you sail towards a different island.

Halong Bay, Courtesy Shutterstock

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