The fertile Red River valley has been the home of the Vietnamese people for almost 5,000 years, and it remains the cultural heartland of the modern Vietnamese nation. With the capital Hanoi at its centre, northern Vietnam offers the best of all worlds - great depth of culture, remarkable landscapes and mouth-watering cuisine
Halong Bay's seascape of limestone towers is the view everyone's here to see, but the karst connection continues inland, to Ba Be's sprawling lakes and the knobbly topped peaks of Ha Giang, until it segues into the evergreen hills of the northwest highlands.
Not to be outdone by the scenery, northern Vietnam's cultural kaleidoscope is just as diverse. In this heartland of hill-tribe culture, villages snuggle between paddy-field patchworks outside of Sapa and the scarlet headdresses of the Dzao and the Black Hmong's indigo fabrics add dizzying colour to chaotic highland markets.
The twisting ribbon-roads winding north from Hanoi reveal a rural world far removed from Vietnam's horns-a-honking big-city streets. If you're up for some road-tripping, this is the place to do it.
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22 June, 2016