Sapa is situated in the country’s northwest at an altitude of 1,600 meters. In the early 20th century the French took advantage of Sapa's cool climate, developing it into a summer retreat from the heat and humidity of Hanoi. Today, Sapa town still retains its European feel, largely due to the French architecture and gardens and today is a popular destination due to its beautiful scenery and colorful ethnic people. You’ll enjoy lush rice-terraced valleys and breath-taking scenery passing several different minority villages.
The valleys surrounding Sapa are home to several of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups, each with their own distinctive dress, customs and dialects.
These tribes can all be seen at the weekend market in Sapa town to trade with one another.
Mai Chau is approximately 140km from Hanoi and 60km from Hoa Binh.
Mai Chau’s main attraction, aside from its picturesque landscape is its inhabitants, namely the Thai and H’Mong who live in traditional hamlets and villages along the valley floor.
Hoa Binh (meaning 'Peace' in English) is the provincial capital of the province of the same name, located 75km northwest of Hanoi.
Hoa Binh town is about five km from Southeast Asia's biggest hydroelectric construction on the Song Da (Black River) valley.
The region with its scenic valleys is home to many ethnic minority hill-tribes, including the H'mong, Dao, Thai and Muong.
The majority of houses are made of wood and bamboo and supported on wooden stilts. These houses are often quite large with palm leaf roofs and polished bamboo-slat floors. The kitchen is located in the center of the house; the cooking as well as the making of the colorful "tho cam", the material used by Thai minority to make their clothes takes place in the kitchen. The H’Mong on the other hand lives in wooden longhouses.
Life in the remote valleys of Mai Chau remains much the same as it has done for centuries
The province of Ninh Binh is well-known for its stunning scenery of imposing limestone and tranquil meandering rivers. The countryside surrounding the town makes for an ideal escape from the capital city Hanoi, a little over 100km to the north.
It is in the surrounding countryside with its small villages and hamlets where the real charm of Ninh Binh is to be found. The roads are quiet and free of large vehicles and therefore safe for the cyclist. The villagers are friendly and the views are simply captivating.
Of all the routes available the most spectacular is a dyke road. The dyke is raised about 3-4 meters above the surrounding countryside providing the visitor with excellent panoramic views of the villages on one side and the soaring limestone mountains on the other.
Aside from the scenic attractions there are other hidden delights down the winding country paths. Ancient pagodas litter the area as do caves and grottoes many of which serve as shrines to the pantheon of Buddhist and Confucian deities. To discover more about the scenery for which Ninh Binh is famous a ride on a traditional sampan or rowboat is highly recommended. These small vessels snake their way through a dramatic landscape of grey-green cliffs which tower over the water below.
High above on the almost-sheer slopes mountain goats balance precariously feeding on the vegetation. The boats weave their way through the reeds and the only sound one hears is the occasional kingfisher chirping and the soothing rhythmic splash of the paddles. The skilled oarswomen also navigate visitors through a series of limestone caves and tunnels, each one of which opens out on to another stretch of calm water.
HA LONG BAY
Ha Long Bay is perhaps the most spectacular of Vietnam's natural wonders. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin 170km from Hanoi, it is an impressive collection of nearly 2,000 islands covering an area in excess of 1,500km forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and cliff faces.
The breathtaking scenery and unusual geology of the bay led UNESCO to designate Halong Bay a World Heritage site in 1994.
Many of the forested islands in the bay have hidden caves and grottoes which are easily explored by boat or kayak. Some of the island caves are filled with a colorful stalagmites and stalactites.
Halong Bay literally means "descending dragon bay". The bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town and part of Vân Đồn District in Quảng Ninh Province. A community of around 1,600 people live on Hạ Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng in Hùng Thắng commune, Hạ Long city. They live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture.
1Cave Of The Wooden Stakes (Dau Go Cave)This is one of Halong Bay's most beautiful and historically significant caves. The impressive 8,000 sq. meter cave is believed to have been used to store the wooden stakes that General Tran Hung Dao planted in the riverbed of the Bach Dang River to sink the invading Mongol fleet in the 13th century. The cave is reached by climbing the 90 rough hewn steps.
2Cave Of SurprisesSung Sot was discovered in 1901 by the French. Lying 25m above sea level the cave has 3 distinct chambers connected by narrow passages and accessible via an 800m walkway
(Sung Sot Cave)