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You are here:      Home News 5 things not to miss in the Northern Vietnam
5 things not to miss in the Northern Vietnam
Bac Ha Market
Being a minority ethnic people market, the town of Bac Ha is famous for its Sunday market which is a trading centre and meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives every Sunday.
Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. It is the largest and most colorful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. Some walk several hours for the weekly opportunity to trade and barter food, animals, clothes and household goods. 80km from Sapa, Bac Ha Market is not only the place for buying and selling, but also a place for cultural and sentiment exchanging. On the market days, right from the early morning, all paths and mountain roads are full of people and horses pouring to the market. People usually sit in groups around a soup pan ("thang co") eating and chatting.
Many different ethnic groups such as Flower H'mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere. The market
was very crowded, local products for sale or barter are carried on horseback. Besides the usual items like pigs, cows, chickens, and ducks, Bac Ha Market sold dogs. As dogs were available as cuts of meat, they were also available live, right next to the live pigs, chickens, and other livestock. There was a brisk trade at the market for everything from hand-embroidered skirts to all manner of 4-legged animals. The “fresh” meat section is not for the faint of heart and might steer more than a few visitors in the direction of strict vegetarianism.
Though tourists were not in short supply, they were not the focus. Most locals paid little attention to them, rather choosing to focus on their business and the short Sunday-sized window of opportunity. Rounding the corner and pungent fumes of alcohol accosted your senses of smell, from corn whiskey, a Bac Ha specialty. The potent moonshine is decanted by vendors from large white plastic jugs to used bottled water containers. If you doubt the ability of a vendor's hooch to peel paint or light your senses on fire, you can try a shot for free.
At the fair, adventurous gastronomes can try “thang co” blood porridge, a popular dish of the H’Mong and other local people. The Flower H’mong minority is the most common here, and their colorful dresses makes is a beautiful sight.
Let’s once visit Bac Ha Market and you will be able to experience a wide range of different colorful ethnic minorities and more interesting things of life in the mountains...
Trekking of Sapa
Sapa is located in Lao Cai province, 350 km from Hanoi, close to the border with China. The Hoang Lien Son range of mountains dominates the district, which is at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. This range includes Vietnam’s highest peak, Fansipan, at a high of 3142m above sea level and a vast area covered by thick forest, rich in wildlife. The town of Sapa lies at the attitude of about 1,600m. The climate is moderate, cool in summer, foggy and cold in winter with occasional snowfall.
Sapa is home to a great diversity of ethnic minority people. It is likely that, Sapa was first inhabited by highland minorities of H’mong and Yao group and later came the Tay, Zay, and a small number of Xa Pho to form the 5 main ethnic groups which takes about 85% of the district’s population today and a very small number of them live in Sapa town, most of them live in small villages and hamlets scattering in valleys and hamlets scattering in valleys and mountains throughout the district.
Till middle of 20th Century, a majority of the ethnic people live a moving style earning a living by slash and burn agriculture which caused huge damages to the nature. Nowadays, most of them have changed into sedentary basing on intensive farming and work their land on sloping terraces cultivating rice and corn, since the vast majority of the land is mountainous. However due to climate condition, only one crops can be grown annually.
In spite of changes of living conditions, especially fast better transportation, TV, media… offers great opportunity to get contact with outside world, the ethnic minority people still keeping their self sufficient ways of life and maintain their own culture and custom.
Halong bay
Located in the Northern Vietnam province of Quang Ninh, Halong Bay covers an area of 1553 km² in the Gulf of Tonkin. Disseminated throughout the site are some 1969 islands, most of them uninhabited, making for a total land area of 562 km².
Halong Bay means the “bay of the descending Dragon”. Many legends surround the formation of Halong Bay, most involving the afore-mentioned mythical animal. The most widespread story tells how a dragon, sent by the Emperor of Jade to support the Viet people fighting against the foreign invaders, helped push away the attackers and in the process, spat jewels that landed in the sea and formed the karts landscape. The Dragon, followed by her children, then decided to settle there and descended to the bay. Mother Dragon made Ha Long Bay her home while her children settled in Bai Tu Long, their tails whipping on the beaches of Long Vi.
Being one of the great natural wonders of Asia, Halong Bay is the single most popular side trip from Hanoi. The beauty of the bay and its 3000 islands is so awesome that an excursion there should be considered an essential part of any visit to Northern Vietnam. A one or two day trip also makes a delightful and inexpensive romantic getaway if you meet someone special.
After five hours on a hellish road (which is slowly being repaved), you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular and memorable sightseeing of your trip. Hire a boat in Halong City or Hon Gai to take you as far from shore as possible, and simply meander among the islands, fjords and inlets. There is plenty to explore in the 4000 square kilometer body of water, and it is easy to find peaceful places to swim, fish, or just relax without seeing another soul, yet surrounded by majestic scenery.
Despite what geologists may claim, the bay was actually created when an immense dragon plunged to Earth here before recorded history. Its mighty tail carved the great stone seabed violently before the creature flew away to the place where legends are born. This fable does not seem so farfetched as you sail among thousands of limestone outcroppings, which look like so many blades thrust deep into the mist from below the sea. Many are barren, weathered and rocky. Others are cloaked in vegetation so dense that it is impossible to see the stone beneath. At dusk, they all take on mysterious shades of gray, mauve and olive.
Several of the larger islands have extensive caves, which are open to visitors for about a dollar. Although they are poorly lit and have slippery pathways, they offer a little adventure to liven up a long, lazy day of boating.
The water is warm, clean and clear, so swimming is always a pleasure here. Be prepared with swimwear and a towel.
Bia hoi
Bia hoi is a very light lager made with no preservatives that is probably more similar to Bud Light than anything else you might know. Research tells us that the alcohol level is usually between 3% and 4% so it’s a bit weaker than American light beer, when bia hoi is in its pure form.
Most tourists drink this stuff for the novelty of it rather than its delicious taste, and in fact, the batches tend to taste different from day to day, which might be at least partially explained by the fact that many of the bia hoi places in Hanoi literally water the stuff down in order to stretch the batch out a bit more.
At most places it’s not really as cold as you might like, and some days it tastes like dishwater while other days it tastes like a really nice light beer. The service at these places – at least the ones where tourists go – tends to be fast, so it’s possible to get quite a few of these things down your gullet in a short time if that’s your goal.
If you love draft beer and you also love a bargain then your Mecca might be northern Vietnam. Every travel show that slips through the country mentions the infamous “bia hoi” that is most common in Hanoi, but also found in many other parts of Vietnam if you look around. In fact, Hanoi is definitely not the best place to try these cheap suds, but we’ll get to that below.
On signs that bother to translate the words, “bia hoi” always becomes “fresh beer” but in reality there is an older form of the stuff that is called “bia tuoi” and that actually means “fresh beer.” The word “bia” is Vietnamese means beer, and it’s pronounced almost like an Australian pronounces “beer” anyway.
What’s important to know about this stuff is that it’s made freshly each night, delivered around the city the following morning, and guzzled down by the time the bars close that night. And instead of actually being served in bars, it’s usually poured out of a plastic jug, or maybe an actual keg, at street-corner establishments all over the city.
Tai Chi in Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
"In the middle of Hanoi is a small lake. If you go in the morning, tons of city people come out to do tai chi and calisthenics, and they're stretching and doing exercises all around this beautiful lake," says Reid. "It's very unique, and it's very Hanoi." A mythical giant turtle who lives beneath its waters supposedly lent the Vietnamese people a fateful sword that helped them defeat Chinese invaders in the 16th century--if you're lucky, you just might catch a glimpse.

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