PRESENTATION OF NORTHERN VIETNAM, ITS HISTORY AND MAIN DESTINATIONS
Northern Vietnam is an extremely diverse region in terms of landscapes, ethnic minorities, must-see places and activities available on site. In addition, it is in the north of the country that the capital Hanoi and its various facets are located.
Northern vietnam also hosts a large number of cultural and historical sites. This is explained in particular by the important place of the North in the history of Vietnam, which we will see here.
History of Northern Vietnam
The first Hung kings are known as the founders of Vietnam as we know them today. This is a lineage of Vietnamese kings who all bore the name "Hung Vuong". This name seems to come from a combination of the word "Hung" which means "brave" and "Vuong" which means "king". According to legend, the reign of the first King Hung Vuong in the country's history began in 2888 BC and concerned a kingdom that covered all of present-day Vietnam but also part of southern China.
The first King Hung Vuong also founded the Hong Bang dynasty, the first dynasty to rule Vietnam and which lasted almost 2000 years.
Under this dynasty, many kings would have succeeded the first king Hung Vuong and would be at the heart of many legends. For example, the cultivation of watermelon in Vietnam was reportedly introduced by King Hung Vuong X. The dynasty ended in 258 BC, when it was overthrown by the king of the An Duong Vuong dynasty (or Thuc dynasty). This dynasty in turn ruled from 257 to 207 BC.
Every tenth day of the third month of the lunar calendar there is an event in honour of the Hung kings, at the same time as the festival of the temples of the Hung kings. It is an extremely important national holiday that brings together many people across the country. We honour the Hung kings but also the ancestors of the Vietnamese in general, with the tasting of many traditional dishes and various animations, games, ceremonies,...
The imperial city
The city of Hanoi occupies a major place in the history of Vietnam. This can be seen in many historical sites and monuments within the city, including the imperial city of Thang Long (which means "the dragon that is taking off").
It is an ancient imperial city that was built from the remains of a 7th century Chinese citadel. The city is a strong symbol of the independence of the Dai Viet, the ancient name of Vietnam under the Ly dynasty from 1054 to 1400 and then under the reign of The Law from 1428 to 1802. The city was a very important place during these periods, as it was the political, economic and cultural centre where various rites and ceremonies, among the most important in the country, were held.
The city was greatly transformed by the French at the end of the 19th century. Many parts of the site are destroyed, some of which were of symbolic and historical importance (such as Kinh Thien Palace, which was one of the headquarters where many crucial decisions concerning the defence of the country were taken. Today, only the esplanade remains of this palace (57 m long, 41.5 m wide and 2.3 m high). In place of these destroyed buildings, the French built colonial buildings to house the artillery forces.
The old quarters of Hanoi
The main destinations in Northern Vietnam
Hanoi, the capital of the country, is of course one of the main destinations in northern Vietnam. The city is full of exceptional sites to visit, combining history, authenticity, modernity, French influence,...
Hanoi's old quarter is a place for meetings, exchanges and sharing. Very lively, especially at weekends, this district is an essential part of your visit to the capital.
Lake Hoan Kiem (Sword lake) is located near the old quarter and is at the heart of one of the city's most popular legends. A red bridge, illuminated in the evening, allows you to cross the lake and visit the Ngoc Son temple with its 2 mummified turtles that lived in the lake at the time. The temple also offers you a beautiful view of the lake.
The Museum of Ethnology is one of the most important in the city and even in the country. 54 different ethnic groups live in Vietnam, and this museum allows you to learn more about the daily life of these ethnic groups, their customs,...
Hanoi's cuisine is also among the best in Vietnam. In the capital, you will have the opportunity to taste traditional dishes such as pho (rice noodle soup with beef broth, herbs and a combination of several spices), bun cha (rice vermicelli with grilled pork, salad, spices and various aromatic herbs), banh cuon (Vietnamese ravioli with cooked rice leaves, stuffing with ground pork and black mushrooms), etc.
Halong Bay is also an extremely famous destination in northern Vietnam, and this is easy to understand. Indeed, Halong Bay's record is very impressive. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, is part of the world's most beautiful bays club and was elected in 2011 as one of the 7 new wonders of nature. It is also the world's largest marine karst.
The magnificent natural landscapes of Halong Bay seduce visitors from all over the world and allow them to participate in unique cruises in this paradise setting. Several water activities are available on site, in addition to the possibility of spending a night on a junk or admiring sublime sunsets and sunrises.
Ha Giang province is located near the border between northern Vietnam and China. This province is characterized by incredible karst landscapes, with breathtaking views and panoramas of hills, mountains and valleys. The region is very well preserved, nature reigns in peace and quiet and the many ethnic minorities who live in the province live in harmony and meet at events such as weekly markets.
The terraced rice fields in Ha Giang change colour depending on the time of year and the season you visit the area, but they will impress you in one way or another. Ha Giang is a perfect destination for visitors with an adventurous spirit looking for authenticity and encounters with the locals. Indeed, you have very easily in Ha Giang the possibility to share a meal and spend a night with a local in the North of Vietnam. The members of the ethnic minorities on site are extremely welcoming and you will then experience strong emotions. Lovers of walking, motorcycle trips or simply nature, Ha Giang will seduce you and will bring you serenity and calm in the heart of unique landscapes.
Ninh Binh is also a small corner of paradise in the heart of nature, hence its nickname "Halong Bay Terrestrial". The region is home to the Trang An landscape complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also to many temples, pagodas and cathedrals. It is an important cultural and historical site, surrounded by sublime natural landscapes. Ninh Binh is home to several rivers and a visit to this superb destination in Northern Vietnam will give you the opportunity to take a boat trip on one of them. If you prefer the land and the flat terrain, you can discover the region on a bike to walk between the rice fields and the mountains. In any case, you can admire sumptuous landscapes, as well as exceptional fauna and flora.
Sapa shares common points with Ha Giang province, such as the presence of splendid rice terraces or many ethnic minorities: the H'mong, the Dao Rouge, the Tay, the Dzay, the Xa Pho,...
The rice terraces of Sapa are undeniably among the most beautiful in Northern Vietnam, but also often come back when we talk about the most beautiful rice fields in the world. On site is Mount Fansipan, which is the roof of Indochina, 3143 m high. At the top of this mountain (accessible via a long trek or cable car), you will enjoy an exceptional panorama overlooking the terraced rice fields, mountains, valleys,...
Northern Vietnam is therefore full of eye-catching destinations, from unmissable and extremely popular places to remote and isolated regions that still retain their authenticity, their own identity and the traditional way of life of the various ethnic minorities living there. These different destinations have many natural, cultural, historical, artistic, architectural, human and other assets.