North of Vietnam

North of Vietnam

Things to do - general

Brief history of North Vietnam

There is little recorded history of this region of the country prior to the French establishing a hill station at Sa Pa in the 1920s, and even then their tenure was brief. Remote uplands, dense vegetation and rugged terrain suited to guerrilla activities, plus a safe haven across the border, made this region the perfect place from which to orchestrate Vietnam’s independence movement. For a short while in 1941, Ho Chi Minh hid in the Pac Bo Cave on the Chinese frontier, later moving south to Tuyen Quang Province, from where the Viet Minh launched their August Revolution in 1945. These northern provinces were the first to be liberated from French rule, but over in the northwest some minority groups, notably from among the Thai, Hmong and Muong, supported the colonial authorities and it took the Viet Minh until 1952 to gain control of the area. Two years later, they staged their great victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu, close to the Laos border.

During the late 1970s Sino-Vietnamese relations became increasingly sour for various reasons, not least Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia. Things came to a head on February 17, 1979 when the Chinese sent two hundred thousand troops into northern Vietnam, destroying most of the border towns: seventeen days later, however, the invasion force was on its way home, some twenty thousand short. Though much of the infrastructural and political damage from the war has been repaired, unmarked minefields along 1000km of frontier pose a more intractable problem: most areas – including all which regularly receive tourists – have been cleared and declared safe, but in the more remote areas it’s sensible to stick to well-worn paths.

As Vietnam fans out above Hanoi towards the Chinese and Laos borders, it attains its maximum width of 600km, the majority of it a mountainous buffer zone wrapped around the Red River Delta. Much of the region is wild and inaccessible, yet it contains some of Vietnam’s most awe-inspiring scenery, sparsely populated by a fascinating mosaic of ethnic minorities. Most popular for visitors is the northwest region where the country’s highest mountain range and its tallest peak, Fan Si Pan, rise abruptly from the Red River Valley. Within the shadow of Fan Si Pan lies Sa Pa, an easily accessible former French hill station, famous for its minority peoples and for its superb scenery with opportunities for trekking out to isolated hamlets. On the other side of the Red River, a couple of hours’ drive away, Bac Ha has one of the most colourful of all minority groups in the form of the Flower Hmong, whose markets are great fun. The attractions of these two towns and the historic battlefield of Dien Bien Phu, site of the Viet Minh’s decisive victory over French forces in 1954, draw most tourists, while those with enough time are well rewarded if they follow the scenic route back to Hanoi, passing through Son La, Moc Chau and Mai Chau.

Travel to the North of Vietnam

The little-travelled provinces east of the Red River Valley also deserve attention, especially the stunning scenery and mountain people in the border area of Ha Giang and Cao Bang provinces. The northeast region also features Ba Be National Park, where Vietnam’s largest natural lake hides among forested limestone crags and impenetrable jungle. Not surprisingly, infrastructure throughout the northern mountains is poor: facilities tend to be thin on the ground, and some roads are in terrible condition. However, this area is becoming increasingly popular with tourists as Hanoi’s tour agents organize new tours and independent travellers venture into uncharted terrain by jeep or motorbike.

Whether you travel by public transport or with your own vehicle, you need to allow around six days’ actual travelling time to cover the northwestern region. Touring the entire northeast also requires at least six days including Ha Giang Province, but more if you want to spend time on Ba Be Lake, or visit Pac Bo Cave or Ban Gioc Waterfall near Cao Bang. Combining the northwest and northeast loops gives you an unforgettable two weeks of exploration, but bear in mind that travelling these roads is unpredictable, becoming downright hazardous during the rains (see When to go), and it’s advisable to allow some flexibility in your programme. If you’ve got only limited time, Sa Pa, Mai Chau and Ba Be National Park make rewarding two- or three-day excursions out of Hanoi, either by public transport or hired vehicle. The other alternative is to join an organized tour with one of Hanoi’s tour agencies.

Red River Delta Vietnam introduction

Red River Delta is a large land limited by lower stream of Red River in Northern Vietnam. This region consists of 11 provinces with many wonderful landscapes and seascapes. Economy in this region is developed compared with other regions in Vietnam.
Red River Delta has a tremendous potential and many advantages superior to other economic areas. It has favorable position for the economic – social development. Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam as well as the political, economic, cultural center is situated in Red River Delta, which makes the region an important strategic area in politics, economy, society, defense, security and foreign affairs of the country. Red River Delta serves as the gateway in the north of Vietnam with modern transportation systems such as networks of road, river, sea, air, and rail. Important ports are also situated in this region, for example, Hai Phong Harbor and Noi Bai International Airport. They are connecting links between the Red River Delta and other economic regions in the country, and expanding exchanges with countries in the region and in the world.
Area: 23,336 km2
Population: over 19 million people

Red River Delta is a vast region located around Red River basin in Northern Vietnam. Red River Delta provinces include Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, Bac Ninh, Ha Nam, Hung Yen, Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Quang Ninh. Unlike Mekong River Delta, there are only two provinces in Red River Delta, Thai Binh and Hung Yen having no mountains, so this area is called Red River Delta. The whole area is 23,336 km2, representing 7.1% of the country area. Geography in Red River Delta is characterized by flat topography with dense rivers and streams, which creates favorable conditions to develop transportation and infrastructure systems in this region. The typical climate of this region is dry season (from October to April) also known as winter. In spring, it is drizzling and light rainy. This part of Vietnam owns a large amount of natural resources that contribute greatly to the development of Vietnam industry. To the east of this region is the South China Sea, so Red River Delta has a long coastline with beautiful beaches and favorable places to develop fishery industry.

Northeast Vietnam introduction

Northeast Vietnam is the territory in the north of the Red River Delta. The northeast is one of three natural geographical sub-regions of Northern Vietnam (Northwest, Northeast and the Red River Delta) with beautiful landscapes and seascapes.
Northeast Vietnam is one of the most advantageous regions in Vietnam. This part plays an essential role in the development of the whole country. This region has advantages of both geography and economy. In this region, most of population is Kinh people, and a number of ethnic minority groups, which creates diversity in culture, customs, and lifestyle. Owning many wonderful landscapes and seascapes with various cultural identities, Northeast Vietnam appeals a large number of tourists and investors annually.
Population: 9,543,900 people
Area: 67.006 km2 (over 20.24 % of total area)

Northwest is the mountainous area in the northwest of Vietnam. The region has borders with Laos and China. Northwest is also commonly known as North northwestern Vietnam, and one of 3 natural geographical sub-regions of North Vietnam. Northwestern geography in Vietnam is characterized by rugged terrain with high mountains running from northwest to southeast. Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range, the roof of Vietnam has a length of 180 km, width of 30 km, with a number of mounts at the height from 2800m to 3000m. Typical rivers in this region are Da River and Ma River which contribute greatly to generating hydraulic power in North Vietnam in particular and all Vietnam in general. Major topography in this region is limestone plateau stretching from the Phong Tho to Thanh Hoa. The plateau can be also subdivided into plateaus of Ta Phin, Moc Chau, and Na San; and basins of Nghia Lo and Muong Thanh.

Northwest mainly consists of medium and alpine mountains. This area has the most fragmented, dangerous and highest terrain in Vietnam. Popular northern midland and mountainous terrain types are high mountain ranges, deep valleys or gorges area, and limestone plateaus with an average altitude. Belonging to this area, Hoang Lien Son range is worth the highest and most voluminous mountain with many peaks over 2500m height, of which Fansipan is the tallest one (with 3143m). Northwestern nature is quite diverse with many sub-region with characteristic topography, soil, climate, and hydrology. Vietnam weather in the northwest is clearly characterized by continental climate with extreme weather phenomenon. Daytime temperature range is quite large. Many places have all 4 seasons in a day such as Moc Chau plateau. According to geographers, the Northwest Vietnam is not only rich in natural unearthed resources such as land, forests, vegetation, flora and fauna system, but also wealthy in unexplored fossil resources, especially in rugged remote areas.

Northwest Vietnam introduction

Northwest Vietnam is one of important sub-regions of Vietnam. This region plays a crucial role in Vietnam defense and security. Northwest Vietnam is always characterized by untouched beauty of landscapes and local people.
Possessing the roof of Vietnam – Hoang Lien Mountains soaring skyward, Northwest Vietnam has its long shadows concealing some best-kept secrets of Vietnam. Landscapes in the mountainous area are described as gathering in a rich palette, which providing some of the most spectacular scenery in Vietnam. Northwest Vietnam is also the residence of hill tribes who are in elaborate costumes. Cultures of ethnic minority groups in this region are diverse and contribute greatly to Vietnamese culture. Although being one of disadvantageous regions in Vietnam in term of geography, Northwest Vietnam attracts people from everywhere to come and discover. Seemingly, the mountainous area brings something mysterious, which appeal curiosity of both domestic and international tourists. Striking scenery and a series of challenges in this region are looking for your explorations and experiences.
Area: 5.64 million ha
Population: 3.5 million people

Terrain in Northeast is portrayed by mountains in hills. Northeast Vietnam is conterminous to Red River Delta, Northwest, East Sea and China. This is an advantageous position in improving economic exchange between regions and with the neighboring, China. Geography of Northeast Vietnam is characterized by complex topography. In the west, there are high mountain chains stretching from northwest to southeast, especially Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range with over 3000-meter Fansipan Mount that is the boundary between Northwest and Northwest in Northern Vietnam. This region is situated in tropical climate, but is influenced by northeast monsoon and differentiation in climate, which forms diversity in ecology with various fauna and flora systems. In addition, this region possesses a large amount of fossils and natural resources, especially coal and metals

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