I lived in Hanoi for two great years between 2001 and 2003 while working for the British Council. During that time I went on many motorcycle explorations throughout the northern and central parts of the country. The three main areas I cover here are Hanoi, The Central Coast towns of Hue, Hoi An and the ruins at My Son and the Central Highlands.

But for many more photos mainly of the beautiful mountainous regions bordering China and Laos and of the local ethnic minorities, go to the site click ethnic minorities of northern vietnam.

vietnam map


Hanoi is an absolutely fascinating place and my all time favourite place to have lived. There are quite a few annoying things - mainly the traffic - but these pale in comparison with all the great things - most notably the architecture of the old town, the food and the surrounding countryside.

At the centre of the old town in Hoan Kiem Lake, where you may be lucky enough to see a giant tortoise.

Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake hanoi hanoi old town hanoi old town, hanoi cathedral, hanoi cyclo driver, Hanoi buddhas streetsign, Hanoi ho chi minh mausoleum golden buddhas buddhas temple temple

living room of my house near Lenin Park

my house

Although Hanoi's streets are clogged with traffic, once you're out of town the countryside is a wonderful rural idyl

countryside countryside countryside countryside countryside

the ancient royal capital of Hue with its imposing citadel is the gateway to the central coast

Hue citadel Hue citadel Hue citadel Hue citadel Hue Hue Hue beach near Hue church near My Son girls wearing Ao Dai

Hoi An is probably the miost picturesque town in all of Vietnam but is rapidly becoming "chi-chi-fied" as it is now a World Heritage site in its own right

Hoi An Hoi An Hoi An

One of the main reasons people came to Hoi an in the past was to see the ancient Cham empire ruins of My Son

My Son My Son My Son

Further south are the Central Highlands. I spent a week in 2003 motorcycling about the area and finding a diverse collection of ethnic minorities

Motorbiking in the Central Highlands longhouse longhouse rong rong rong rong village village village life

I happened upon a small village where they were in the middle of a wedding party which involved drinking copious amounts of the local rice wine which is brewed in big pots. It was strong stuff!

drinking rice wine in a village village village life village life Alan crossing stream temple temple temple countryside

Vietnam is a communist country and so there is no official religion. However, in addition to the Chinese buddhist beliefs of most of the population, the hilltribes people are mainly animist and there are also quite a few christians, especially in the south as evidenced by this very oriental looking church.

church, central highlands

and a more traditional church

church, central highlands countryside rubber tree