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Hanoi & The North

The capital, Hanoi, sprawls on the banks of the Red River. It is a beautiful city that retains an air of French colonial elegance with pretty yellow stucco buildings lining leafy streets. Hanoi is also a city of lakes, which adds to its air of sleepy grace. At present there are relatively few cars – many people travel by bicycle or moped. It is a city that appears lodged in a bygone age. In the middle of the city lies the peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) with the 18th-century Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) sitting on an island in its centre. The temple can be reached by The Huc Bridge (Rising Sun Bridge).

To the north of Hoan Kiem Lake is the Old Quarter, a fascinating maze of small antiquated streets lined with markets and pavement restaurants and cafes. West of the Old Quarter and south of the West Lake is the former Ville Française. This is the old French administrative center and is characterized by enormous colonial-era châteaux and wide spacious boulevards. It also houses Hanoi’s most popular attraction, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

When visiting the Mausoleum, it is important to be respectful both in dress and attitude. Ho Chi Minh was the father of the modern state and is still held in reverential regard. His house, built in 1958, is also on public view. Other museums in Hanoi include the Bao Tang Lich Su (History Museum), the Bao Tang Quan Doi (Army Museum), Ho Chi Minh Museum, Bao Tang My Thuat (Fine Arts Museum), Bao Tang Cach Manh (Revolutionary Museum) and Independence Museum.

There are a number of interesting pagodas in Hanoi. The One Pillar Pagoda, first constructed in 1049 (subsequently destroyed by the French just before they were ejected from the city and then rebuilt by the new government), was built to resemble a lotus flower – the symbol of purity rising out of a sea of sorrow. The Temple of Literature built in 1076 was the first university in Vietnam. It is a graceful complex of small intricate buildings and peaceful courtyards. To the northwest of the Citadel is the West Lake, which is about 13km (9 miles) in circumference. The shores of the lake are popular amongst the Hanoians for picnics and there are a number of cafes. The lake also contains the wreckage of a crashed American B52 bomber.

Main Attractions in Hanoi

The Old Quarter
A maze of 36 narrow streets named after the products that were traditionally sold here and home to the amazing tunnel houses which have a very narrow frontage hiding very long rooms.

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
Former President Ho Chi Minh lies in state here and people come from all over Vietnam and the world to pay their respects.

The Temple of Literature
A beautifully preserved temple dating from 1070 which became the first university in Vietnam where the sons of mandarins were educated.

Fine Arts Museum
Museum housed in a fine building with exhibits of artworks from prehistory to the present day.


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