Vietnam is a country full of unique history and culture. Everywhere you look is a mix of past and future. On the one hand, remnants of the Vietnam War are still ever present. On the other hand, the country is filled with attractions like exotic boat cruises and four-wheel-drive sand dune adventures. For the open-minded tourist, there are untold adventures just waiting to unfold.
The north of Vietnam is quite different than the south. While the south sports Vietnam’s current capital, the north sports Vietnam’s old capital and much of its ancient culture. The cuisine is different, as are the people. What can you expect while exploring the northeast loops of Vietnam?
Hanoi – The Former Capital
After the August Revolution of 1945, Ha Noi was named the capital of Vietnam. Since then, it’s gone through many incarnations and witnessed many different rulers. The city itself is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been inhabited since as long ago as the Neolithic era. Hanoi was bombed during the American War, leaving much of the city decimated. Though the city has long since been rebuilt, you can still see some evidence of the war – Both in monuments and in people’s hearts.
Hanoi is the perfect cultural place to begin a Vietnam adventure.
Ba Be – The Land of Lakes
The next stop from Ha Noi should be Ba Be. The drive to Ba Be is littered with little Vietnamese villages. It’ll allow you to get a glimpse of the real Vietnamese countryside experience. You’ll see rice patties, farmers, kids playing in the fields and more.
You’ll also get to see the Thai Nguyen city, the world-famous tea plantation. Once in Ba Be, you get to experience some of the best canoeing in the world. The water is clear and tranquil. Once you get used to handling yourself on a canoe, you’ll have the opportunity to go explore some ancient Vietnamese caves. You can also trek to the nearby villages to get to know their many diverse inhabitants.
Cao Bang – The Largest Waterfall in Vietnam
Cao Bang is a unique place. The land is shared by many different tribes and ethnicities, each with its own culture and dialect. The Nung, the Dzao, the Tho and the H’Mong tribes all live in the same vicinity, sharing resources and company. The main attraction of Cao Bang is, of course, the world-famous Ban Gioc waterfall. It’s the biggest waterfall in Vietnam, a true sight to behold.
Near the waterfall is a gigantic cave to explore. One entrance leads all the way into the waterfall! On the way out of Cao Bang, you’ll encounter many native hill tribe peoples.
Lang Son – Former Decimated Border Town
On the way to Lang Son, you’ll pass by the Pac Po cave. This is the cave where Ho Chi Minh ran the military that fought in the August 1945 revolution. The drive to Lang Son takes about 6 hours and is peppered with gorgeous Vietnamese sceneries, from rice fields to lakes to native hill tribes.
Once you arrive in Lang Son itself, you’ll again be presented with an incredible mixture of past and present. Lang Son was at one point totally decimated by opposing forces. Since then, however, the city has been given new life and is today a bustling hub.
In this city, you’ll get to visit a bustling market, where you can buy many trinkets, shirts, paintings and other goodies for far less than you’d pay back home. Finally, you get to explore the renowned Tam Thanh Cave, a cave known for both its depth and its majesty. Go with a guide if possible to ensure the group’s safety.
Once you’re finished with Lang Son, it’s time to head back to Ha Noi. The journey by car transverses many hills and terrains and presents you with many natural views of the country. Witness roaming animals, bustling cities as well as tiny villages along your way home.
Making a loop of the northeastern parts of Vietnam is a fantastic way to get to know the country. You get a taste of everything, from the historical nature of the country to the majesty of its greatest waterfall.