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Hanoi & Sa Pa

Hanoi

 
Hanoi is the social, cultural, and economic center of Vietnam. It's slow-paced and pleasant, with a lovely landscape of lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and French-colonial architecture.

Hanoi still preserves many ancient architectural works including the Old Quarter and over 600 pagodas. Hectares of lakes lie intertwined between the streets, the largest ones being Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, and Truc Bach Lake. Many traditional handicrafts are also practiced in Hanoi including bronze molding, silver carving, lacquer, and embroidery.

 

Sa Pa

 
 This former French resort town is tucked into the mountains near the Chinese and Laotian borders.

It's a good place to encounter some of the many ethnic groups (known as hill tribes) that inhabit the country. The tribes go into Sapa for the weekend market - the textiles, embroidery and other needlecrafts are superb. (Be aware that members of some tribes, including the H'mong, won't tolerate having their pictures taken.)