The north of Vietnam is different from its southern half. For over a thousand years, the culturally Chinese Confucius and Buddhist north was a separate kingdom from their Khmer Buddhist cousins in the south. Although the south was tropical year round, the northern winters could be cold and damp. The Annamite mountains literally divide the land. Political upheaval in the late 18th century led to the Nguyen Dynasty’s triumphant unification of the Vietnams in the early 1800s.
Yet political upheaval seems to have been the natural order often until 1975. The end of America’s Vietnam War, allowed the Vietnamese to concentrate on what they enjoy the most, doing business. Whether it’s a BMW auto dealership in Hanoi or a convenience store in a rowboat on a bay, the Vietnamese are capitalists. It’s part of the throb of real life in Vietnam.
Part of life is also stunning natural beauty, crazy traffic, the silence of fog on a bay and the iridescence of a fresh pearl just shucked from its shell. Vietnam charms and jars. One trip is not enough. This exploration highlights five key destinations in the north. Americans must arrange for visas in advance. Major international airlines serve Hanoi.