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Vietnam Travel guide

Vinh Moc Tunnels

Vinh city

Practically obliterated during the American War, Vinh was hastily rebuilt with East German aid – hence the brutalist concrete architecture that dominates the downtown drag. Unlike other Vietnamese towns, it has wide boulevards and broad pavements. Despite attempts to prettify the place with trees and parks, the city remains a resolutely bleak-looking industrial city, nicknamed [...]


Ninh Binh Province

A short hop south of Hanoi, Ninh Binh Province is blessed with breathtaking natural beauty, intriguing cultural sights and the wonderful Cuc Phuong National Park. That said, Ninh Binh has become a massive destination for domestic travellers, and many of its attractions are heavily commercialised. Expect plenty of hawkers and a degree of hassle at [...]

North Central Vietnam

North-Central Vietnam

History This region’s seen it all: kings, warriors and occupiers and a history of warfare and conflict. The ancient kingdom of Champa began here in the 2nd century and flourished for more than a thousand years. It left its mark in the myriad towers and temples dotting the landscape; the most renowned are at My [...]

Ba na Slings

Central Vietnam

Why Go? . Marvel at Hue and its imperial citadel and royal tombs. Savour the unique grace of riverside jewel Hoi An. Tour the military sites of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). Check out Danang, fast-emerging as one of the nation’s most dynamic cities. And don’t neglect the extraordinary Phong Nha region, home to three gargantuan [...]

ha giang

Ha Giang

Ha Giang is the final frontier in Northern Vietnam, an amazing landscape of limestone pinnacles and granite outcrops. The far north of the province has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, and the trip between Dong Van and Meo Vac across the Mai Pi Leng Pass is quite mind-blowing. Ha Giang should [...]

Bacha market 1

Bac Ha

An unhurried and friendly town, Bac Ha makes a relaxed base to explore the northern highlands and hill-tribe villages. The atmosphere is very different to Sapa, and you can walk the streets freely without being accosted by hawkers. To experience a small, untouristy mountain town, Bac Ha is an excellent destination. The town has a [...]

Bac Ha market

Lao Cai

Lao Cai is right on the Vietnam–China border. The town was razed in the Chinese invasion of 1979, so most of the buildings are new. The border crossing here slammed shut during the 1979 war and only reopened in 1993. Now it’s a bustling spot fuelled by growing cross-border trade. Today Lao Cai is also [...]


Established as a hill station by the French in 1922, Sapa is the one place in the northwest where tourism is booming. It’s now firmly on the European and North American package -tour circuit, and well-equipped trekkers are a common sight around town. The town is oriented to make the most of the spectacular views [...]

Lai Chau

After passing through one of Vietnam’s remotest regions, the new eight-lane boulevards and monumental government buildings of Lai Chau appear like some Vietnamese El Dorado. The reality is more prosaic. Formerly known as Tam Duong, this remote town was renamed Lai Chau when a decision was made to flood ‘old’ Lai Chau (now called Muong [...]


Muong Lay

Formerly known as Lai Chau, the small town of Muong Lay en route from Dien Bien Phu to Sapa has undergone a massive transformation in recent years. The former town of Lai Chau was perched on the banks of the spectacular Da River valley, but has now been flooded to incorporate the Song Da Reservoir, [...]

My Son tour

Dien Bien Phu

Around Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954, the French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh in a decisive battle, and the days of their Indochina empire became numbered. Dien Bien Phu (DBP) sits in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley, surrounded by heavily forested hills. The scenery to or from DBP is stunning, [...]

My Son tour

Son La

Son La has prospered as a logical transit point between Hanoi and Dien Bien Phu. It’s not a must-see destination, but the surrounding scenery is impressive, and there are a few interesting diversions. The region is one of Vietnam’s most ethnically diverse and home to more than 30 different minorities including Black Thai, Meo, Muong [...]

Mai Chau

In an idyllic valley, the Mai Chau area is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. The small town of Mai Chau is unappealing, but nearby are Thai villages surrounded by lush paddy fields. There’s minimal traffic, and the rural soundtrack is defined by gurgling irrigation streams and birdsong. The villagers are [...]

Hoa Binh

Hoa Binh means ‘peace’ and this easygoing nature town is a relief after the traffic-plagued suburbs of Hanoi. The area is home to many hill-tribe people, including the H’mong and Thai. Hoa Binh is a handy pit stop en route to Mai Chau. Sights Muong Cultural Museum (Khong Gian Van Hoa Muong; 0913 553 937; [...]


Northwest Vietnam

History The history of the northwest differs to lowland Vietnam. The Vietnamese traditionally avoided mountains, believing the terrain was not suitable for large-scale rice production. For many centuries the area remained inhabited by scatterings of minority people, joined in the 19th century by migrants from Yun-nan, China and Tibet. This was the ‘badlands’, a buffer [...]