I didn’t know much about Vietnam before visiting; my knowledge included some information about the cuisine and whatever I had learned in history class about the American war. So I was surprised and delighted to discover that northern Vietnam had everything I could want in a region, and more. I couldn’t get enough!
Read on to see some reasons why northern Vietnam definitely needs to be your next destination in Southeast Asia.
1. Hanoi has it all.
It’s a city with high-rises, bicycle taxis, night markets and sleepy parks. The capital of Vietnam strikes the perfect balance between the leisurely pace of an old Asian town and the bustling nightlife and vibrant culture of a big city.
2. There are opportunities for relaxation and adventure.
A short few hours from Hanoi is Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tours that sail around this absolutely gorgeous spot vary from relaxing cruises to adventure trips. I recommend kayaking near the caves (but be sure to approach them with caution — they get very dark inside!) or a bike tour through a farm village, like Sapa or Mai Chau.
3. The history and culture are fascinating.
Vietnam is a country that’s been experienced a lot of war; first, against the French in a battle for independence, and then the American War. The Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi provides unique insight into the conditions these wars forced upon the Vietnamese people. Also, check out the Women’s Museum to learn about all the badass women who played roles in intelligence, combat and politics. Alternatively, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip is a great book to read if you’re interested in women during the war (warning: it’s not a light or quick read, but it is very compelling).
4. You’ll never get tired of the food.
Banh mi, pho, bun cha, fresh smoothies, spring rolls… I could go on. Basically, everything is delicious, and I can’t imagine any carnivore with taste buds not absolutely loving every minute involving food. Plus, it’s dirt cheap. (Pro tip: Check out Bun Cha Ta in Hanoi’s Old Quarter for a tasty take on traditional Vietnamese street food.)
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So there you have it. Just a few of the reasons you need to make time for northern Vietnam on your next trip to Asia. Want more recommendations? Ask away in the comments.