The capital of unified Vietnam, Hanoi is one of the most charming cities in South East Asia with its timeless street scenes, tree lined boulevards, numerous lakes and well-preserved architecture. The city was founded in 1010 on the right bank of the Red River and was then known as ‘Thang Long’, roughly translated as “Soaring Dragon.”
Nowadays, this bustling metropolis is a delightful combination of its ancient past and increasing modernity. At the centre of the city lies the atmospheric Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as the lake of ‘the restored sword’, with the Temple of Jade on a central island. Nearby is the capital’s famed old quarter with its original 36 streets, which have traditionally sold the same wares. Discover the area on a cyclo as you journey through this maze of streets bearing names such as Silver Street, Silk Street and Flower Street to name just a few. Marvel at the traditional ‘tube houses’, a style of architecture indigenous to this part of Hanoi, or simply take a stroll through the food market in Hang Be Street.
Further afield, visit Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, an imposing monument dedicated to the father of modern Vietnam. Other sights in the Ho Chi Minh quarter include the national hero’s house on stilts and the One Pillar Pagoda, a symbol of Hanoi. Those with a further interest in history of the city may wish to visit the Temple of Literature, known in Vietnamese as Van Mieu, a structure dedicated to Confucius. Constructed in 1070, the compound soon became the country’s first university. The renowned Museum of Ethnography, which houses an interesting collection of artifacts relating to the mosaic of ethnic groups that inhabit Vietnam, is well worth a visit. Other museums include the Museum of History displaying an array of exhibits ranging from prehistoric times to the period of resistance to French colonization. Those with an interest will enjoy a stroll through the old colonial quarter where you can view some of the best French architecture in South East Asia. Round off your visit to Hanoi with a show at the famed water puppets theatre.