When you arrive in Hanoi you’ll probably feel like anybody else coming to visit Vietnam… you’ll feel like a tourist. However, after awhile you’ll settle and finally realize that you really are living here. Maybe that will take a couple weeks, maybe even a couple months, but trust me it will happen. Before you know it this chaotic bustling place on the other side of the world will become your home. You won’t identify with the tourists as much, rather you might want to get away from them and search for a more authentic experience. In this blog I want to tell you about two places that I consider “off the beaten path”. I’d like to tell you about the “Extreme North”.
The “Extreme North” is the most northern part of Vietnam. It’s where Vietnam meets China. The landscape up there is stunning in every way. It’s a mountainous region dotted with gorgeous rice terraces and serene waterfalls. The local Vietnamese are not like the people you meet in Hanoi. For the most part they are poor villagers who work their land hard to survive. They are extremely kind and wear colorful unique clothes that fits their culture. Everything about the North is extreme; the landscape, the people, the way of life. The area is absolutely beautiful and if you want to get away from the hoards of tourist in Hanoi you should catch a bus up north.
Sapa and Ha Giang are two of the amazing destinations you can go to in the “Extreme North”. Sapa is Northwest of Hanoi. You can catch a train or bus to get there and will be about a 5-6 hour ride. Sapa is known for its trekking and rice terraces. When you arrive to Sapa you can chat with the locals and find a guide to show you around the area. You’ll stay in homestays in small rice villages during your trek. It’s a totally authentic experience and you’ll be able to see exactly what life is like there. Treks in Sapa usually range from 2-7 days and most of the guides there are simply local villagers trying to make some extra money to support their family. You’ll be able to haggle a bit as far as the price goes but don’t feel bad with paying a little extra the people there need it.
Ha Giang, in my opinion, is the absolute most amazing destination you can go to in Vietnam. It’s well of the beaten path. About a 7 hour bus ride north of Hanoi, the landscape changes into incredible mountains and rice fields. You go to Ha Giang for motorbiking. There’s a 500 kilometer loop that goes through the main villages. You can complete the loop in 3-5 days. If time isn’t a factor plan for 5 days. There are so many seductive roads leading to remote villages that you’ll be wanting to explore. The whole area is incredibly beautiful and if your into motorbiking you will be completely blown away by it all. The riding is advanced though and novices shouldn’t attempt biking the loop. The road conditions are good for the most part but they are steep and winding which are extremely fun for motorbiking but are also dangerous. If your up for the challenge head up to Ha Giang you won’t regret it.
If you want to get away from the other tourists and experience something authentic check out Ha Giang and Sapa. The landscape of the “Extreme North” is like nowhere else in the world and you’ll see Vietnam through an unfiltered lense.