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Centered on Hanoi, this is the oldest and most original part of Vietnam. The Red River Valley, the rice bowl of the north, is where those first people known as the Viet came from southern China more than 2000 years ago. Hanoi is home to the oldest citadel in Vietnam, and one of the oldest libraries in the world, the Temple of Literature. It also hosts the oldest restaurant in Vietnam, Cha Ca La Vong, doing business in the same location for more than a century. It ain't fancy, but it's damned tasty! It's specialty is fried fish, and it just happens to be located on Fish Street. The present day city was designed by the French, and they made of ...

Centered on Hanoi, this is the oldest and most original part of Vietnam. The Red River Valley, the rice bowl of the north, is where those first people known as the Viet came from southern China more than 2000 years ago. Hanoi is home to the oldest citadel in Vietnam, and one of the oldest libraries in the world, the Temple of Literature. It also hosts the oldest restaurant in Vietnam, Cha Ca La Vong, doing business in the same location for more than a century. It ain't fancy, but it's damned tasty! It's specialty is fried fish, and it just happens to be located on Fish Street. The present day city was designed by the French, and they made of it a demi Paris. Buildings are monumental, and the lakes, ponds and parks make it perfect for walking. It is the political and literary capital, and you will see any number of men in berets and corduroy jackets discussing the latest, or oldest, novel. In the hill country, not far away, you can take a delightful train trip to visit the colorful tribal folk there. The imposing limestone pillars known as "karsts" that dot Ha Long Bay have inspired many painters and photographers. Crowds are thinner, prices are often lower than the south, and if you don't like the heat come here.

Richard Sterling
About the Expert

Richard Sterling is the author of Lonely Planet's World Food: Greece, Eyewitness Travel Guide Vietnam, and many other books.

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Richard Sterling for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Southeast Asia, bordered by Laos to the west and China to the north.
  • Language: Vietnamese
  • Currency: Dong
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    March to November; winter is cold.