Sunday, 18 March 2012

Panoramas of Northern Vietnam

As always, the Panorama function on my Fujifilm camera went overtime, especially when I simply cannot resist taking shots of beautiful scenery. Here is a wide view of the valley where the Black Hmong village of Cat Cat is located. Just 2 km south of Sapa, there is a well-paved road that leads through the village and bamboo thickets to the old hydroelectric plant and Cat Cat Waterfall at its base. Allow yourself two hours for this trek, and 30 minutes more if you wish to watch the cultural show.

A longer trek, also south of Sapa, takes one to the Muong Hoa Valley where the Black Hmong villages of Lao Chai and Ta Van are located. Along the way are vistas of terraced rice fields that extend the entire height of each hill. The path is narrow and rocky, and there are several small streams to navigate.

At last, the effort of trekking is rewarded with this glorious view of the Muong Hoa valley and river, with the tiny village of Lao Chai in the foreground. Presently, major quarrying and construction is underway to undermine this side of the valley, so this wonderful view may soon be a thing of the past. A well-paved suspension bridge crosses the river to the village on the other side.

Once past the village of Lao Chai, it is a leisurely and level stroll to the village of Ta Van.

Another worthwhile trek is to the Red Dao villages of Ma Cha and Ta Phin, located north of Sapa along the winding road to Lao Cai. I was fortunate to capture this view of the valley overlooking Ma Cha, as two minutes later a pea-soup fog enveloped the entire area, reducing the visibility to
not more than 100 metres.

The mist has lifted, and one gets a broad vista of Ta Phin from the road to Ta Phin Cavern.

When Vietnam meets China. The bridge linking the frontier towns of Lao Chai and He Kou in the province of Yunnan. All this construction is new, following the disastrous border war of 1980 when much of Lao Cai was destroyed by the Chinese.

Back to Hanoi and its fabled Old Quarter. A panorama of "Bia Hoi Corner", so named because of its many watering holes, or bia hois, where locals and visitors alike meet for a casual drink. It is located at the junctions of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien Streets, where many of Hanoi's DVD and CD shops are also located.

No visit to Hanoi is complete without photos of Hoan Kiem Lake. This was taken from the south-western corner of the lake, with clear views of the Tortoise Tower (Tap Rua) and Hanoi's General Post Office Building (right).

Another view of Hoan Kiem Lake, this time from the northern end. The island in the middle houses the Den Ngoc Son (Jade Mound Temple), which can be reached via a most picturesque bridge. A leisurely walk around the lake, about 3 km, should not take more than an hour.

Arguably the best aerial view of Hoan Kiem Lake comes from the 5th storey City View Café, located on Hanoi's busiest intersection just north of the lake. Here you watch the world and crazy Hanoi traffic go by.

This is a view from the opposite side of the intersection from the 4th storey Illy Café. That's what we do during a carefree vacation - café-hopping without apology.

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