Built in 1070, the Temple of Literature was Vietnam's first university, where the country's brightest scholars aspired to the role of mandarin, or court official. The temple is dedicated to Confucius, and is one of Hanoi's most historic sights.
We named this iteration of our travel project "Hanoi For 91 Days" more for aesthetics than for accuracy; "Central and Northern Vietnam For 91 Days" just doesn't have the same ring to it. But the truth is, we didn't even reach Hanoi until Day #31. After a month on the road, from Hoi An to Ninh Binh, we were ready to settle into the rhythm of a city, and get back to life as normal. It didn't take long for us to realize, though, that life in Hanoi could never be considered "normal".
Located about 30 minutes north of Ninh Binh, the Vân Long Nature Reserve protects one of Northern Vietnam's largest unspoiled natural areas. Visitors can take a boat tour to see a small section of the park, and possibly spot the elusive, endangered Delacour's Langurs which call it home.
During the 10th and 11th century, Hoa Lư was the capital of Vietnam. Located in the karst hills southwest of present-day Ninh Binh, the site is today home to temples and tombs, and is a popular tourism destination, especially for locals.
If you're looking for an unforgettable view of the karst hills south of Ninh Binh, you might want to skip on the popular boat tour of Tam Cốc, and instead seek out Hang Múa. Over 400 steps will bring you to the top of a mountain, from where you'll be able to see the unique landscape in all its glory.
Located a few kilometers north of Tam Cốc, the mountainside complex of Bích Động consists of three temples arranged in a vertical order. A climb to the upper pagoda is rewarded by magnificent views over the region. Bích Động was established in 1428 by two Buddhist monks from Ninh Binh, who recognized the area for its natural beauty. They built three pagodas at different heights on the mountain, making use of the limestone caves and recesses in…
Among Vietnam's most stunning images is the aerial view of Tam Cốc: a region of rice fields and steep limestone hills, just south of Ninh Binh. If you're spending any time in the region, it's a photo you'll see over and over again, in the window of every tourism agency, hung on the wall of every restaurant. And every time you see it, you'll think to yourself... "Man, I've got to go there!"
Rarely have we spent time in an area so beautiful and remote as the Pù Luông Nature Reserve. In fact, in terms of sheer beauty and remoteness, I'm pretty sure this place tops the list. We took hundreds of photographs during our two days here, and could have taken hundreds more. Everywhere you turn in Pù Luông, it's nearly guaranteed that you'll encounter a scene worthy of a picture. And the longer you look, the more charming…
It wasn't exactly how we planned to spend our day exploring the Natural Reserve of Pù Luông. And it wasn't an experience we had really even considered within the realm of possibility. But when you find yourself invited to an alcohol-soaked community party in a remote Vietnamese mountain village, what are you going to do?
After a few days in the Phong Nha National Park, we were happy to stay focused on Vietnam's nature, and relocated to another park: Pù Luông. Just like Phong Nha, this is an exceptionally beautiful area. But unlike its more famous brother, Pù Luông is still largely untouched by tourism. We spent two days exploring the region, and never once saw another foreigner.