Our family party of seven adults has a nine-day holiday in northern Vietnam in January. We would like suggestions of where to go after meeting up in Hanoi. Is Sapa overly touristy? N. Bowman, Reid ACT
Sapa is popular, but not in January, it's seriously cold and often misty and possibly raining and the rice terraces won't be green.
However if you trek you can almost guarantee that you will be the only tourists in the hilltribe villages, which will be a novel sensation.
Hanoi and Halong Bay, likewise, although not so cold, but grey skies and misty weather are the order of the day.
January is a good time to visit the south and if you haven't already locked in your air travel you might consider stopping first in Ho Chi Minh City for a few days and exploring the city and the Mekong Delta region, which is a really fascinating part of the country, and typically mild and dry at this time of the year.
If you're committed to Hanoi, one thing you could do is take a day trip to Tam Coc, where you can take a boat ride along a river that passes through rice fields at the foot of leaping limestone peaks, highly photogenic whatever the weather. A multi-day tour of the countryside with Hanoi Biking is another option worth considering.