The oldest settled part of the country, Northern Vietnam is unusually rich in culture and history. The fertile plains of the Red River Delta are full of ancient temples, clan houses, and pagodas, including the very scenic and highly venerated Perfume Pagoda. Farther north, neatly cultivated fields and urban settle ments give way to the magni ficent Hoang Lien Mountains. The most popular destination here is the hill resort of Sapa, from where it is easy to visit nearby Bac Ha, and explore the surrounding remote areas that are home to several minority peoples. In the east, Halong Bay is Vietnam’s most cele brated natural beauty spot, while to the south are the dense green forests of Cuc Phuong National Park.
Getting Around Traveling around Northern Vietnam, especially in the northeast, is getting easier with the construction of new roads to Haiphong, Halong City, and the Chinese frontier. The northwest is another matter, and it is better to take the night train to Lao Cai or a flight to Dien Bien Phu rather than endure the arduous road trip. The best way to get around and take in the stunning scenery is by hiring a car and driver. Plenty of buses ply the roads too, and can be arranged by hotels and tour agen cies in Hanoi, Ninh Binh, and Sapa. Halong Bay can be explored by boat. It is possible to hire a boat for a reasonable price from the pier at Bai Chay in Halong City or in Hanoi. Hydrofoil services connect Haiphong with Cat Ba Island.