Since this my first trip to Vietnam I cannot compare it to another visit but the influence of China is evident in signage, architecture and food. The French have also left their mark. Like China traffic is crazy, requiring walkers to dodge cars, motorbikes and other pedestrians. Hanoi, specifically, is part of a watershed and sits on the Red River coming from China. This watershed originates in Yunnan Province so the geography of lower China and Hanoi are similar. Hanoi is close to HaLong Bay with many limestone mountains and caves caused by erosion. These karst mountains, made of soft rock like limestone are exactly like the mountains in lower China.
Our group has enjoyed an overnight on the boat in HaLong Bay with several great seafood meals. In Hanoi City we visited many temples and had time on our first day to squeeze in a Water Puppet show accompanied by women singing local tales and a small group of instruments of Vietnamese origins. The stories are acted out by puppeteers standing in water, not visible to the audience. It is quite a show since water is so important to the Vietnamese people. A very local experience, not unlike the Chinese opera.