Red River Vietnam Cruise Tips

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Inaccessible to the majority of Westerners Unknown to the majority of Westerners, the Red River (Song Hong in Vietnamese) is considered to be the vital economic and historical lifeblood of Northern Vietnam.

Beginning from Southwest China, the river and its tributaries pass through peaceful rice fields and vibrant urban areas that connect Hanoi, the capital city of Hanoi to the renowned Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin.

For river cruisers that have already taken a trip on the well-known Mekong across Southern Vietnam and Cambodia, the Yangtze in China or the Irrawaddy in Myanmar (Burma) The trip through the Red River offers a unique perspective into a once-rural, but fast-growing Southeast Asian country.

The Mekong River is so fresh to cruise that there is only one company currently offering cruises. Pandaw is an adventure cruise company which is specialized on Southeast Asia, was looking for an alternative to the overcrowded and fiercely competitive Mekong. The company decided to launch its own cruise in 2015. relocated one of its shallow-draft vessels with a capacity of 32 passengers, Angkor Pandaw. It also began what is still the sole commercial cruise that runs along the Red River. While Pandaw’s all-inclusive 10-night cruises are available all year and are subject to change according to the season, the schedules vary in accordance with the water levels that fluctuate greatly based on the amount

The highlights of every Red River cruise are a full day spent in Hanoi and a two-day trip in Halong Bay, a UNESCO-designated labyrinth that is made up of 2,200 limestone islands and outcroppings. However, leaving those “bucket list” destinations aside there are cruises that focus on smaller-town tourist attractions, not major tourist attractions or breathtaking scenic views. (Indeed there are many areas of the river that flow through plain terrains, the banks of the river are usually filled with trash piles.)

For instance, during visiting the Hung Lo Buddhist temple near Viet Tri, about 50 miles to the northwest of Hanoi visitors get a unique spectacle consisting of “xoan” (pronounced “shwan”) singing. This ancient style of Vietnamese storytelling, handed down from generation after generation and acknowledged in the eyes of UNESCO as an instance that is an “intangible cultural heritage,” includes not just singing, but also acting, dancing as well as chanting, drumming and chanting.

In the flourishing bonsai-growing village located in Dien Xa, about 60 miles to the southeast of Hanoi visitors are taken on the opportunity to tour a family business led by the owner’s proud 13-year old grandchild, Nguyen Linh Chi. The explanation she gives of the factors that make Vietnamese bonsai different that is bigger tends to mean better quality, while the shapes are more natural than Japanese ones -interesting. However, what was even more fascinating during a recent visit was the chat that ensued after a leisurely walk back to the boat. In almost perfect English, Linh Chi confided that she’d like to attend college at America. United States one day -but then returning to carry on her family’s tradition of transforming nature into masterpieces of art that fetch the tens thousand dollars for each specimen.

In almost every place on the river, tourists are welcomed with big smiles and a chorus of “xin chao” (“hello”) even on the river which is where everyone including traditional fishing leg rowers all the way to deckhands on oceangoing freighters are both awed and delighted to experience something as unique as being a cruiser.

Best Time to Take a Red River Cruise

Northern Vietnam has a cool to cold winter between November and March, and a hot and warm dry season from April through October. January and December are the most common months to be very cold and heavy fogs can reduce the visibility of scenic spots such like Halong Bay and Thung Nang/Tam Coc (known as “Halong Bay on Land.”) The time of the year that is most wet is during summer in the fall, and the late summer/early autumn storms can bring stormy conditions.

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A word of caution about traveling in Tet or Vietnamese Lunar New Year: The most significant celebration in the calendar (generally being observed in February or January), Tet is celebrated for a period of time that extends beyond its actual day. This can mean colorful street decorations and festive people visiting relatives as well as friends could be accompanied by closed stores and workshops at various stops throughout the route.

Red River Cruise Lines and Itineraries

A handful of companies offer brief excursions through the Red River Delta, and many tour boats provide Halong Bay cruises that last from a couple of hours to several days. However, Pandaw is the only commercial cruise company that travels along the Red River and its tributaries and offers an overnight stay at Halong Bay at the beginning or at the end of each sailing.

Alongside a visit to Hanoi All Red River itineraries feature daily excursions, often by motor coach, to see temples of various kinds and towns in which locals produce traditional goods such as bamboo lacquerware, ceramics conical hats, and sparkling exquisitely carved furniture.

From April to November when higher water levels permit the river to flow further The trips are scheduled to begin or end at Hoa Binh Dam. Hoa Binh Dam on the picturesque Da (Black) River, which flows to the southwest of Hanoi.

From December to March, cruises commence or finish in the capital city of the province of Viet Tri, which is near the confluence of Red and Lo rivers. They also spend more time spent on an inshore water cruising area on the coast, around Haiphong, the main industrial port. Haiphong.

Red River Cruise Port Highlights

Halong Bay: The eye-candy combination of soaring limestone peaks that are uninhabited and absinthe-green, sheltered water, dubbed “Where the Dragon Descends into the Sea,” was given its name from the legend that dragons sent by the gods to aid to help the Vietnamese combat Chinese invaders slipped into the bay and left the islands behind.

It was featured as a major backdrop in the film Hollywood film “Kong: Skull Island,” Halong Bay is regarded as Vietnam’s most popular tourist attraction, attracting more than 7 million visitors (including approximately 3 million foreign tourists) every year. However, the majority of international cruise travelers arrive from Halong Bay’s Bay Chai port in Halong City and are restricted to a trip of six hours through the most crowded part of the bay travelers who are on the Red River itinerary spend nearly two days in the southern part of the bay, taking in the scenery and having a night anchorage in the less-crowded but equally stunning Lan Ha Bay.

On one excursion in the afternoon participants use 2-person kayaks, or the more traditional rowboats (where the captain of the boat handles most of the job) to go to an area known as the “Bright and Dark Cave,” which is a cave that leads to a tranquil lake, surrounded by cliffs that rise steeply. Additional highlights are a visit to the lush, rocky Cat Ba Island, where guests can cycle or take a shuttle ride to the village of farming Viet Hai. There’s also a trip to the floating village of fishing and, if the weather permits the weather permits, a private sunset gathering on a beautiful island.

Hanoi: Pandaw passengers start with their Red River journeys here, with motor coach transfers included from the airport or to the Pan Pacific Hotel in the city. Pan Pacific Hotel to the destinations of departure for the ship in Viet Tri Hoa Binh or Tuan Chau Island (just to the south from Halong City). However, Pandaw also stops at Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam that is a bustling and historic city for the full day of exploration.

In the cruise cost are guided excursions to The Old Quarter, a warren-like maze of restaurants and shops and the Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum which is where cruise passengers can are able to join groups of students waiting in line for the chance to take an inside look at Uncle Ho’s waxy graves as well as The Temple of Literature. It is the home of Vietnam’s oldest university. It dates up to Hanoi’s foundation 1,000 years ago. It is also inspired by the temple in Confucius the birthplace of Confucius located in Qufu, China.

Another place to visit is the notorious Hoa Lo Prison. It is more well-known by Americans by the name of Hanoi Hilton, a sarcastic nickname given upon the captured U.S. pilots (including Senator John McCain) who wound up in Hoa Lo in the Vietnam War, Hoa Lo was founded as a prison by French in the latter part of the 19th century in order to deter the growing Vietnamese nationalism. While the majority part of Hoa Lo was destroyed to create an office and apartment building (now it is believed that the building is haunted) the remaining section has been transformed into an exhibit. Although the squalid, cramped cells and torture tools that were used to torture the French are horrifying evidence of the human capacity for evil, the part dedicated to American prisoners is a lot and a bit more sun-kissed with pictures of a festive Christmas dinner , and prisoners writing letters to their families.

Hoa Binh/Da River During the cruise’s high-water itineraries, between April and December, cruises commence or close with Hoa Binh. It is located in the hill country that was typically inhabited by the Muong ethnic group Hoa Binh was the scene of a major war against the French in the late 1950s and early 1952. Today, it is the home of Vietnam’s most hydroelectrically powerful dam.

Excursions include a boat trip along the reservoir of the power station and visiting the village of a local hill tribe however the most popular attraction and the most favored for Angkor Pandaw’s captain is a full day of floating along the Da River through Ba Vi National Park. It is a popular weekend getaway for tired city Hanoi inhabitants, the hilly park was established to be a hill station in the French colonial era and is renowned by its lush, tropical forest.

Duang Lam: This charming small town close to Hanoi has earned its officially “ancient village” label with an ancestry that spans to 1,200 years, and hundreds of homes built by the traditional way which are as old as 400 years old. A walking tour with a guide includes the chance to visit one of them, where the 17th generation owner, who was a veteran who served in North Vietnam and was wounded during the battle of Khe Sanh, welcomes passengers with tea cups of wine made from rice.

Thanh Ha Commune It is the Vietnamese technique of making water puppets includes puppeteers standing on a wooden screen deep water that is waist-deep, and manipulate intricately painted, lacquered wooden characters. It began in the flooded rice fields that lie in the Red River delta in the 11th century, and was believed to be an opportunity to entertain youngsters during the hot summer months and also to protect them from the dangers of currents that flow through the river.

Commercial shows of a large scale are being held in Hanoi as well as other parts of Vietnam However, this adorable version — with live musicians and singers and a peanut gallery full of youngsters from the local community will take place in an island in the center of an old pond in a town that visitors can walk directly to from their ship.

Red River Cruise Tips

The people are the reason to visit not for stunning landscapes. With some notable variations including Halong Bay, the Da River and Ninh Binh province, among them – the waterlogged Red River and its tributaries traverse through in a boring landscape. However, cruises here offer the unique chance to get to know Vietnamese in regions that Western tourists are scarce.

Wear sturdy shoes with you and “temple socks. “ Slip-ons that provide solid support and non-skid soles are ideal to navigate the river’s steep and slippery banks, as well as for easy removal prior to you step into pagodas, temples and private residences. (One person who has been on numerous Southeast Asian cruises on Pandaw vessels is adamant about her Merrell Clogs.) Pandaw staffers will collect the footwear of passengers to clean every time they return to the vessel, so socks are great while drinking a glass of refreshing juice on the deck or just waiting to have your footwear delivered to your room.Related: 7 Things You Need for an Active River Cruise

Make sure you are prepared for “go with the flow. “ Variable water levels and unpredictable weather are common for the ride along the Red River and its tributaries and the Pandaw disclaimer clarifies it is “this is a new river expedition and itineraries and schedules are very much subject to change due to uncertain local conditions.”

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