I must admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to the 3-4 hour drive from Hanoi to Halong bay, where we were going to board our Chinese junk to explore the rock formations that local legends say were created by “decending dragons”; but the drive through the Red River Delta ended up being a highlight of the trip because it was a chance to learn a great deal about the history and culture of this fascinating land through conversations with our guide and by just looking out the window.
While most of the route was a flow of lush, rural farm lands, small towns along the way featured many of the lovely old French colonial buildings.
Many of them showing signs of age and modern day conveniences.
This area is the second biggest rice producing area in Vietnam. The miles of rice paddies we watched fly by were dotted with the occasional farmer, braving the midday heat.
Ducks took refuge from the sun beneath the giant lotus leaves.
Lotus blossoms make a stunning display, and the tuber of the plant is edible, but the lotus plants are considered to be an invasive weed to the rice farmers. They must work hard to keep them at bay to protect their rice crop.
If you wanted to learn more about rice cultivation you could take a 1/2 day Wet Rice Tour,
which will give you a chance to don the classic conical hat and traditional farmers frocks to work the paddies and understand the process of how this important staple makes it to the table; you may even get to drive the water buffalo plow through the paddies.
It sounds like a rich opportunity to learn about rice and life in rural Viet Nam. The tour includes tea in the field with the farmers and a traditional home cooked Vietnamese meal with the family.
As with many trips, my brief visit to Viet Nam just made me realize how much more there was to see and experience, I hope to have a chance to go back and roam about this amazing land.
If these photos haven’t convinced you to take this drive yet, you’re in luck because Buffalo Tours, the group we used, is now transporting guests to Halong Bay via Sea Planes, just a 30 minute flight.
Though you’d miss some of the views, it would be a smart way to enjoy more of the country in less time.
And we all only have so much time in this world, after all.