A four-hour drive from Hanoi, the border district of Binh Lieu in Quang Ninh Province in northern Vietnam is emerging as a new ‘paradise’ for backpackers for its untouched and one-of-a-kind beauty.
Located around 100 kilometers from the world-famous heritage site of Ha Long Bay in eastern Quang Ninh and bordering China, Binh Lieu is personified by its admirers as a girl at the prime of her youth who has just woken up from a long sleep.
Travelers from Hanoi can depart early in the morning and reach Binh Lieu by road before noon the same day, as good transport infrastructure has shortened travel time to only four hours.
The trip itself offers visitors the unique pleasure of watching the vastness of countryside roads, paddy fields, rural villages and towering mountain ranges open up and disappear before their own eyes.
Your correspondent's tour guide, a lady of the Tay ethnic group native to northern Vietnam, said Binh Lieu is one of the rare places in Vietnam that remain alluring to tourists all year round, with each season offering a different shade of its ever-changing grace.
Visiting Binh Lieu in the spring, tourists get to experience a variety of traditional festivals of the Tay and Yao minorities of northern Vietnam as part of their month-long observation of the Lunar New Year.
|A girl of the Yao ethnic group in Binh Lieu District in Quang Ninh Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
With summer comes the magnificent blossoming of the mu oil tree flowers, coating the mountainous district with a cloud-white blanket that mesmerizes tourists and locals alike.
The terraces in Binh Lieu are at its greenest in the autumn, when cool weather allows for pleasurable trekking trips across the region’s most beautiful waterfalls and endless fields of purple reeds.
In the winter, locals harvest their crops and celebrate a year of abundance with colorful festivals that attract participants from across the region.
More adventurous travelers can opt to take a motorbike ride on the ‘dinosaur spine’, a mountainous path notorious for its narrowness and difficulty to navigate through, but which rewards visitors with a spectacular view of rolling clouds below their feet and a guaranteed sense of thrill and adventure.
Visiting Binh Lieu, tourists can stay at one of many homestays run by ethnic people and experience living like a true Vietnamese highlander.
|A homestay in Binh Lieu District in Quang Ninh Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
“Some say Binh Lieu is like a mini version of Sa Pa, while others compare it to other tourist hotspots such as Ha Giang and Yen Bai Provinces,” said Trieu Thi Hoang Nga, a tourism official in Binh Lieu.
“In a sense, such comparison is justified because Binh Lieu encapsulates all the positive attributes of these places but in a more humble manner,” she said.
Binh Lieu welcomed nearly 62,000 visitors in 2017, about 23 percent of whom stayed overnight, according to a report by the local administration.
Nearly 41,000 tourists visited the border district in January-July, according to the same source.
|A border marking on top of a mountain range in Binh Lieu District in Quang Ninh Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|