A brief overview of the north of Vietnam
The northern area of Vietnam extends from the border with China to Ninh Binh Province, about 120km south of Hanoi. It’s probably the best region to visit if your time is limited, as it combines the rich culture of the Vietnamese people with a remarkable variety of natural features.
It offers Vietnam’s stately capital city, superb landscapes and exotic ethnic minority hill-tribes in the northern mountains, magnificent Ha Long Bay, the Red River Delta, craft villages, excellent and varied cuisine, and the best scenery in the country. The downside is a lack of decent beaches, and a more extreme climate than the rest of Vietnam.
The northern area, and particularly the Red River Delta, is the heartland of Vietnam. It was there that the Viet people established themselves more than two thousand years ago, and remained as a power base throughout the intervening years. From the north, the Viet people expanded southwards .
As a result, much of the history of Vietnam is the history of the north. It suffered occupations, invasions, and many military victories and defeats. It was the seed-bed for communism, the location of the defining battle at Dien Bien Phu that finally ended the French occupation, and the driving force behind the war to unify the country and build a nation.
The north is also the most traditional of the three regions. Buddhism, Taoism and ancestor worship are the dominant beliefs, and the influence of Confucianism remains powerful.