Taking a river cruise is a good way to experience both the Red River area and the surrounding countryside. The Jewel of the Delta runs excursions up the River several times a week. The captain of the boat is a former NVA Marine and he knows every ripple along the water.

The Red River starts in Yunnan Province in China and enters Vietnam in Lao Cai Province where the water spreads across the 15,000 square kilometers of the delta on its way to the Gulf of Tonkin. Near the reaches of the gulf the river flows at 4,300 cubic meters a second.  Until the 1970s the delta supplied 70% of the agriculture and 80% of all industry to the north of Vietnam. The delta, just three meters above seal level, controls the flooding through an intricate series of dykes.

The Jewel of the Delta moves slowly upriver from Hanoi for about an hour. Sand barges, loaded to almost sinking, cover the river. Brick factories, using the sand, line the banks. Smaller fishing vessels work near the banks while large cargo ships move up and down the main shipping lanes hauling needed goods deep into the countryside and return with new local products. Just over the banks farmers work their fields.

A cruise up the Red River gives a visitor a real feel for the country and its people. People are seen working at various jobs, like rice farming or harvesting or planting. Monks are seen meditating in pagodas and temples. Children play in small villages or attend school in their spotlessly clean uniforms, and all are ready with a friendly smile and a wave of the hand.

The Jewel of the Delta drops off visitors north of Hanoi and offers them bicycles to ride through the country. This gives people a chance to get a feel for daily life of the common people. Stopping at ancient temples and pagodas along the way makes for a nice rest. There is always a refreshment stand, shade, and friendly workers willing to make travelers comfortable.

If rice is being harvested, another opportunity awaits the willing traveler. Not only is it a good photo opportunity, but a good chance to jump in and offer help tying up the rice bags and loading them onto the horse-powered carts. It makes a great opportunity to meet new friends and to get a feel for the lives of the people.

Children are anxious to line the streets as you peddle past, all grins and smiles. At the first opportunity they will approach and touch your arms as if you are a strange and wonderful beast. The more hair on your body the more anxious they are to touch you. Most hairy travelers will never be considered good luck except in Vietnam.

Traditional printing is done in several villages and assortments of pictures are always available. Visitors can see how the inks are made and the images are carved for patterns. Such skills may soon become a thing of the past, but for now, artisans still work their trade.

This is also a good opportunity to visit a local ceramic village. Traditionally, Vietnamese villages have been divided according to trades. One village might offer silk weaving while another might feature ceramics. The ceramics are all hand made and hand painted.

Even the food aboard the boat is traditional and delicious so a riverboat trip is unbeatable for real insight into the country. It might be one of the most informative and pleasurable ways to spend an afternoon.


Young women often work painting ceramics 

If you travel at the right time you will see people working the firelds 

Ships of all sizes travel the Red River 

Sand boats are filled almost to sinking 

Another sand boat heads to the brick making plants 

Food is top-notch 

The food is tasty and traditional 

The Jewel of the Delta is an old converted government boat 

The flag flies proudly over the boat 

There is no shortage of children along the way 

Old boats and new one ply the river 

The crew unloads bicycles for trips inland 

A pagoda along the way 


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