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Hanoi Overview

No city in Vietnam-and perhaps in the whole of Asia-combines the mystery of the past with the chaos of modern day Asia as thoroughly as Vietnamese capital. Every since Ly Thai To moved the Vietnamese capital to Thang Long in 1010, on the site of Red River where current day Hanoi is situated, the place has seen a succession of changes.

From the many lanes of Old Quarter to the lavish colonial architecture of the French sector, the Paris of traditional Cyclo (bicycle taxis).

Dating back to 1070, the Temple of Literature is one of the most spectacular buildings in Asia, its lush gardens providing great shade for those wishing to relax from the heat of midday sun, while those wishing to explore the city’s more recent past can visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum or the intriguing Museum of Ethnology.

With the finest cuisine and some of the best hotels in the region, those wishing to celebrate Hanoi’s 1,000 anniversary in style will not go away disappointed.

Hanoi Tours

With so much to see in Hanoi itself, it seems perverse that the most popular tour for visitors coming to the Vietnamese capital is not within the city walls, but there is only one Halong Bay, Situated some 200 km from Hanoi, most people choose to visit the breathtaking emerald green bay on a two-or three-day trip rather than cramming their visit into a day.

Although the old quarter and central Hoan Kiem lake itself is easily manageable by foot or cyclo, those wishing to explore the rest of the city’s numerous highlights might wish to sign up for a day tour, Most companies travel agent will pick you up from your hotel early in the morning before taking you to Ho Chi Minh’s Museum, the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Ethnology and Ngoc Son Temple. The afternoon is normally spent either wandering, or alternatively being peddled by your cyclo driver, around the myriad of ancient streets in the Old Quarter.

Other day-trip options include visiting the nearby Perfume Pagoda, a vast complex of Buddhist temples dating back to the 1400s, or visiting one of the local villages, such as snake village, where you can sample some local snake wine, Bat Trang pottery village or Silk village.

Hanoi Flights

Noi Bai International Airport is some 35km north of Hanoi . Both mini-buses and metered taxis run from just outside the main terminal into town

Although fewer airlines fly direct to the capital than in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, there are still direct flights from many Asian cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhow, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Busan, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Long haul flights are currently limited to Moscow, Paris and Vladivostok. Many airlines, however, run connecting flights through Asia hub airport such as Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong.

The national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, has an extensive network of scheduled flights from Hanoi to the rest of the Country. Cheap and reliable, these provide a viable alternative to both train and bus for getting around Vietnam, especially if your time is limited.

Beside Vietnam Airlines are international and domestic airlines, there are many domestic airlines as: Jetstar Pacific Airlines, Air Mekong Airlines and Viet Jet Air

Hanoi transportation

With so much to do in Hanoi, it is a pity that many tourists choose to stay here for so few days and most of that time is spent in neighboring Halong Bay. Those who stay longer will bewitched by a beautiful that is constantly changing with the daily life of its inhabitants.

Most visitors spend most of their time in Old Quarter. The myriad of small streets have changed little from the city’s early days-apart from paved roads and illuminated shop fronts. Established when inhabitants of local villages migrated to the city in search of work in the middle ages, even now whole streets are devoted to shoe shops or tailors or goldsmiths reflecting the original guilds that settled there.

Whether you want to shop, eat the local cuisine or simply walk the streets taking that photographic memento of your trip, the Old Quarter is the lifeblood of the city, and offers plenty to make your visit unforgettable.

Hanoi Top Things to Do

Walk around the Old Quarter

Everyone does it, but that’s with good cause. If you cannot get a great picture in the ancient streets then really you should hang your camera up in shame. Take your time wandering around and soak in all the atmosphere.

Enjoy a coffee by Hoan Kiem Lake

Legend has it that here Emperor Le Loi handed his magic sword back to the golden turtle after defeating the Chinese. The small tower in the middle of the lake commemorates this experience. Drink enough Vietnamese coffee from one of the cafes on the side of the waters, and you might just start seeing turtles yourself.

Visit the Temple of Literature

Founded in 1070 as Confucian temple, the Temple of Literature was home to Vietnam’s first university. As you pass through the buildings and lush gardens you will become steeped in history and graduate to a higher level.

Sunset at the Summit

Hanoi might be a city in perpetual flux, but sitting atop Sofitel Plaza or West Lake, you can take in the whole gamut of this most amazing of cities. Enjoying sunset cocktail at the highest bar in town you will see the skyline burst into light.

Sitting Street side

Small blue stalls might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but this where the real action takes place. Whether it is “Pho” or “Bia hoi” that whets your palate, from your street side perch you can watch all city’s craziness unfold.

Watching the Water Puppet Show

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater makes for the perfect way to round off the day. With two shows each evening, there is no excuse for missing this unique example of Vietnamese culture. To a backdrop of music played on traditional instruments, puppets are pulled across water to depict stories from Vietnamese folklore.

Hanoi History Festivals and Events

Hanoi is steeped in legend. The original city of Thang Long was founded by Ly Thai To in 1010. Disembarking from his barge on the banks of the Red River, the first ruler of the Ly Dynasty, saw a dragon rise from the river, and decided to move his capital to the place where present day Hanoi stands. To this day Thang Long, literally “ascending dragon”, is used as a poetical name for Hanoi.

Ly Thai To and his dynastic successors set about building a city fit for a king, establishing the country’s first university at the Temple of Literature and many pagodas, as well as the city walls that give Hanoi its definition.

After a brief occupation by the Chinese, Thang Long enjoyed its golden period in the Le Dynasty until the death of Le Thanh Tong in 1497. From that point the city declined until the royal court move to Hue in 1802. The name Hanoi stems from 1831.

In 1873 Hanoi was occupied by the French and became the capital of French Indochina in 1887. Occupied by the Japanese between 1940-1945, Hanoi eventually became the capital of Ho Chi Minh’s independent North Vietnam in 1954, and capital of the whole of Vietnam on the unification of North and South on Jul. 2. 1976

Like the rest of the country, Vietnamese New Year of “Tet” is the biggest festival of the year. Coinciding with the first week in the first lunar month, the dates for Tet vary from year to year, although it generally falls in late January to early February. Many shops and restaurants are closed during this period. A water puppetry festival is held in Thay Pagoda to the west of the city on the last three days of the Tet celebrations.

During March, the Trung sisters of Hai Ba Trung (“two Aunt Trung”) fame, are celebrated with a parade and dancing at the temple of the same name. While later in the same month (or early April) pilgrims make a procession from the capital to the Perfume Pagoda (Chua Huong) in what is the country’s most important pilgrimage.

Apart from Tet, Trang Nguyen or the Day of Wandering Souls is the most major ceremony. Held in August, this the time that offerings are made to ancestors and those spirits who have not yet found their rest.

Trung Thu or the mid-autumn festival is major celebration for children. Held in September or October, streets are filled with dragon dances and kids are presented with lanterns and moon cakes. Expect lots of smiles if your trip coincides with this festival.


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