Where to go in a North trip, beside Halong Bay?

Spectacular Halong Bay keeps on ruling the agendas of most voyagers in Vietnam, yet it's not the be-all and end-all of the country's northeast. On the off chance that you are very brave up your sleeve and need to dive somewhat more profound, you'll find there is something else entirely to this area than just cruising around Halong's feted karsts.

Sapa

Sapa is a mountainous town in Northern Vietnam where you should have your cameras on for most of your time, cheer over a community wine pot, figure out how to acknowledge indigenous culture or just to escape Hanoi heat and city noise. Being a standout amongst the most appealing tourism destinations of the country, Sapa is a precious gift that Mother Nature dedicates to Vietnam.

Sapa, Lao Cai Province lies at the height of 1600m which is 350km far north-west from Hanoi. With the temperature ranging from the lowest of -1oC to the highest of 29oC, Sapa’s climate is moderate and drizzly in summer while chill and foggy in winter.

Admiring the paddy fields carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoang Lien Mountains, you will know how much harmonious the relationship between the minority people and nature is. It was the elements wearing away the underlying rock over thousands of years that created this impressive physical landscape.

There is nowhere in Vietnam can tourists easily meet the local ethnic minorities like in Sapa. They do not live in center area but in hamlets scattering on the valleys throughout Sapa District. Town of Sapa is where ethnic minority people gather, trade or sell their farming products such as rice, corn, fruits, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs to tourists. There is one interesting fact about ethnic minority people in Sapa that besides their dialects, many of them, especially small children, can speak English pretty well with clear pronunciation.

Sapa is voted to be the best trekking spot in Vietnam, by both natives and foreigners. The whole district is dominated by The Hoang Lien Son mountain range, which also includes Mt. Fan Si Pan- the highest peak in Vietnam and the entire Indochina peninsula with the height of 3143m. This mount is not only a tough challenge to trekking enthusiasts but also an opportunity to witness the splendid mountainous vista.

The geographical location of the area makes it a truly unique place for a rich variety of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects, some of them can only be found in northwestern Vietnam.

Cat Ba Island

Kết quả hình ảnh cho cát bà island

Rough, wilderness clad Cat Ba Island is the take off platform for investigating the limestone islets and towers of Lan Ha Bay. Geographically an expansion of Halong Bay, and similarly as sensational, Lan Ha Bay sees many less guests. Yet, Cat Ba has more to offer than a lovely seascape to goggle at.

This is the northeast’s venture capital – whether you want to climb it, bike it, hike it or kayak it, Cat Ba has the activity for you. Almost half of the island’s 354 sq km is protected as a national park, which is home to most of the world’s endangered langur while the island’s cliffs have become one of southeast Asia’s top learn-to-climb destinations.

To get to Cat Ba islands from Halong Bay, the easiest and most economical way is by Tuan Chau/Cat Ba Ferry. The excursion will bring roughly 1 hour with the ticket falls around USD 4-5. Depend on the weather and the season, there are usually 3-5 trips per day with the time as below:

Tuan Chau to Cat Ba: 7:30, 9:00, 11:30, 1:30, 3:00.

Cat Ba to Tuan Chau: 9:00, 11:30, 1:00, 3:00, 4:00.

As the supply depends on demand, it’s best to request for a ferry schedule at the ticket counter. Cat Ba minibus from the ferry terminal, which is on the north of the island, leaves to the main town to the south after each ferry and takes around 30 minutes costing USD 1– 2/person/way.

Ninh Binh



Somewhat further toward the south of Halong Bay is the old capital – Ninh Binh city. Ninh Binh city is the capital of the region of a similar name: a little wedge-molded region south of Hanoi, which extends from Cuc Phuong National Park in the west to a fragment of land confronting out to the Gulf of Tonkin.

To get to Ninh Binh city from Halong Bay, beside private vehicle, public transport also is a popular way. From Bai Chay bus station (which is 25 minutes by taxi from Tuan Chau port), catch a shuttle bus to Ninh Binh city (under USD10 per person), you can reach Ninh Binh bus station after about 3 hours. As you are using local transports so expect locals boarding at various places.

A significant number of the sights are inside 12km of Ninh Binh city, and the land being completely flat, cycling is an excellent option for visiting nearby sights. To truly appreciate the scenery you need to get out and about, and the best way of doing that is by bicycle. The paths take you through villages and alongside rice paddies and lakes, with the ever present karst formations in the background.

Tam Coc (6 km south of Ninh Binh) lies in the middle of the rice fields and lime peaks. The area is somewhat similar to Halong Bay (it is well known as "Halong Bay on Land"), but more accessible. The main attraction of Tam Coc is the boat ride between the cliffs of the river and through 3 tunnels dug by the river through the peaks. The area around Tam Coc is equally beautiful, and is best viewed from the back of a motorbike or by bicycle. In Tam Coc itself, apart from the boat ride, there are 2 beautiful sites to visit; Bich Dong Pagoda, 3 km after the Tam Coc Pier, built on one of the cliff and which provides incredible views (go all the way to the top of the cliff via the small passage on the right of the last pagoda, which is inside the cliff) and Tai Vi Temple, accessible via the small road on the right of the pier.

Trang An Grottoes is 7 km from Ninh Binh. An easy bicycle ride away, Trang An Grottoes is similar to Tam Coc but with many more caves to pass through. Most caves have been widened in order for the boats to pass through and as result their natural beauty has been compromised. The first two caves are the most natural and beautiful but are also tight in places, so watch your head.

Also situated in Ninh Binh is the famous Bai Dinh Pagoda which is a complex of Buddhist temples on Bai Dinh Mountain in Gia Vien District, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam. The compound consists of the original old temple and a newly created larger temple. It is considered the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam and has become popular site for Buddhist pilgrimages from across Vietnam.

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