Guidebook Cruise along the bird-filled Red River Delta

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Cruise along the bird-filled Red River Delta

“For the Vietnamese, rice is the staff of life,” writes Claire Boobbyer in The Independent, and the Red River Delta is “second only to the Mekong Delta as a rice-growing territory.” A cruise through the Delta navigates the “iridescent green sea of paddy fields,” while listening to “tales about the pivotal role that rice plays in Vietnam's cuisine and culture.” It’s a journey that combines “Vietnam's river pastures, villages dedicated to arts and crafts, and snapshots of local and international industry ...  at the Russian-built Hoa Binh Hydroelectric Power station -- one of the world's more unusual cruise stops -- we descended into the turbine hall whose background was a huge piece of colourful illuminated socialist propaganda.”

“Dense wilderness once covered the delta,” explains Things Asian, but it has now lost “virtually all of its wild space.” Over centuries, the entire area has been “painstakingly and laboriously sculpted by man into a patchwork of rice paddies bordered by dikes and crisscrossed by canals.” It was once so wild, the authors explain, that in the eleventh century “King Ly went elephant hunting near what is now Hanoi's West Lake.”

“These wetlands are of global importance as migratory sites for several bird species,” explains UNESCO. The Red River basin is shared by China, Laos and Vietnam and the coastal areas of the Delta support a “complex system of natural, semi-natural and agricultural vegetation” that includes “mangrove, salt marsh and dune vegetation.” During spring and autumn migrations, “huge numbers of birds stop on route from their breeding grounds in northern Asia to their wintering sites in the Indo-Malaysian and Australian regions” -- 78 species of water birds have been recorded in the Red River Delta.

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