The Red River Delta Biosphere Reservewas recognised by UNESCO in its Man and the Biosphere Programme in 2004; it is widely regarded as the cradle of Vietnam. The English name comes from the colour of the river due to the iron oxide it carries from the interior. The Vietnamese name is Song Hong.
The Delta in the North is formed by the river and its tributaries as the merge with the Thai Binh River. It covers 15,000 sq. km and is an extremely fertile part of the country with rice being by far the biggest crop. It produces 20% of the annual rice crop, second behind only the Mekong Delta.
The population is 19 million who live between the capital of Hanoi and the delta port of Haiphong, Vietnam’s most important, on the Gulf of Tonkin. Inevitably in the monsoon season there are frequent floods because the delta is just above sea level and certainly needs the canals that have been constructed to take the water away.
How to get there
Overseas visitors on Vietnam travel packages often start in Hanoi whose international airport has numerous flights from many parts of the world. Domestic links to other parts of Vietnam are also very good.
Road and rail connections are well developed while there are some visitors that arrive in Vietnam at the port of Haiphong.
Best time to visit
The monsoon rains in the Red River Delta come in the months of summer. The Red River Delta has four distinct seasons. October to April is dry before drizzly weather sets in. Summer and autumn are hot and humid. Travellers come to this part of Vietnam 12 months a year because the climate throughout the country is diverse so there is no one season when those on Vietnam private tours can entirely avoid rain.
Things to see and do
There are plenty of places to visit within the region and most people arriving in Hanoi should certainly spend some time in this lovely city with wide boulevards, a French colonial past, and steeped in history. When it is time to move on there is plenty of choice:
• Bac Ninh first became famous because of its lacquer work and the mother of pearl inlays in wooden furniture.
• Hà Nam is known for its weaving and embroidery as well as being a province heavily involved in agriculture.
• Hai Duong has a number of cultural attractions as well as being a province that is famous for its handicrafts, folk music and birdlife; egrets, herons and storks.
• Hai Phòng is Vietnam’s major port. It is a great place for markets and its museums are very interesting. In common with other large cities it has plenty of nightlife and entertainment. The ecosystem is very interesting; rainforest and marine.
• Hung Yên’s history is still evident today; an ancient port with many pagodas and temples worth a visit.
• Nam Ðinh has a narrow coastal strip suitable for agriculture, and of course fishing. There is also Xuân Thủy National Nature Reserve.
• Ninh Binh’s highlight is the National Park, Cuc Phuong with its natural springs and caves.
• Thái Bình is in the centre of the Red River Delta but because of the rivers creating its boundaries it has been regarded as an island with a unique culture. It is the home of opera singing and water puppets and the birthplace of many prominent Vietnamese over the years.
• Vinh Phúc is a relatively small province that has made a great contribution to Vietnamese culture. There are many relics, several festivals as well as the Tan Dao National Park. Thac Bac Waterfall is a delight, cool and relaxing, perhaps before climbing the steps up to the Temple of the Mountain Lady. The Truc Lan Tay Thien Zen Monastery is arguably the most impressive monastery in the country.
The Red River Delta region is the cultural heart of Vietnam and certainly worth some time during Vietnam tour packages. Those travelling independently can do their own research while if you are on an organised tour everything will be done for you.
There is plenty of choice within all budgets. Homestay and hostel are both popular while there are plenty of hotels for Vietnam family tours.
If you decide to have a holiday in Vietnam, we hope this Red River Delta article has persuaded you to give some time to the region. It is a great destination for seeing more of daily life as well as the history and culture in the form of temples and pagodas.