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Ha Noi - Capital of Vietnam

Hanoi is the cultural capital of Vietnam and its heart and soul. A great place to explore on foot, there is a lot to see and do here. Throughout the thousand years of its eventful history, marked by destruction, wars and natural calamities, Hanoi still preserves many ancient architectural works including the Old Quarter and over 600 pagodas and temples. Famous sites include the One Pillar Pagoda (built in 1049), the Temple of Literature (built in 1070), Hanoi Citadel, Hanoi Opera House, President Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum... Large areas of present-day Hanoi were built during the French occupation, reflected in its broad boulevards and French-inspired architecture, which give the city a definite charm.
  • Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Hoan Kiem lake - Hanoi
  • Hồ Gươm
  • The Huc Bridge - Hanoi
  • Tran Quoc Pagoda - Hanoi

Hanoi is arguably Asia's most charming capital city. Hanoi, meaning ‘embraced by the river', is a city of broad, tree-lined boulevards, elegant French villas and colonial-era buildings painted in muted hues of mustard and white. It is also one of Asia's greenest cities with an abundance of parks and lakes as well as a host of cafes and art galleries and an Old Quarter steeped in history. By day the city hums with commerce and moves at motorbike speed; by night the city is an enchanting, 19th century Asian village best experienced from the seat of a silent cyclo.
Hanoi sits astride the banks of the Red River, Vietnam's second longest river. Beneath modern-day Hanoi lie artefacts and relics of the early Bronze and Iron ages, dating back to 2,000BC. The city was officially founded by Emperor Ly Thai To, who in 1010 renamed the area Thang Long or Soaring Dragon. Soon after, some of the city's oldest structures were built including the Temple of Literature, one of the oldest universities in the world.

Climate Hanoi is situated in a tropical monsoon zone with two main seasons.

During the dry season, which lasts from October to April, it is cold and there is very little rainfall, except from January to March, when the weather is still cold but there is some light rain.

The wet season, from May to September, is hot with heavy rains and storms. The average annual temperature is 23.20C (73.70F) and the average annual rainfall is 1,800mm.

The average temperature in winter is 17.20C (62.90F), but can go down to 80C (46.40F).

The average temperature in summer is 29.20C (84.60F), but can reach up to 390C (102.20F).

Hanoi also characteristically contains 18 beautiful lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, and Truc Bach Lake..., which are the lungs of the city, with their surrounding gardens and trees providing a vital source of energy.
Many traditional handicrafts are also practiced in Hanoi including bronze molding, silver carving, lacquer, and embroidery. Hanoi has many famous traditional professional handicraft villages such as Bat Trang pottery village, Ngu Xa bronze casting village, Yen Thai glossy silk...

Place to visit

Visiting Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is an unforgettable experience. Inside an imposing building lies the embalmed body of the founder of modern Vietnam. When visiting the mausoleum the following rules need to be observed: No short sleeves & skirts are allowed. Silence should be observed when entering the tomb and definitely no photographs (in fact all bags have to be left outside). It’s quite an experience as you queue with many Vietnamese, some of whom have traveled many miles to make the pilgrimage. The mausoleum is a unique opportunity to reflect upon the life of one of the 20th century's more revered historical figures. Next to the mausoleum is a replica of "Uncle Ho's" wooden house on stilts.

Dating back to 1070, the Temple of Literature was the site of Vietnam's first university and was used to educate the sons of the mandarin class. The complex consists of five separate courtyards with different paths that would originally have been reserved for the Emperor and his mandarins and highlighted by the Khue Van Pavilion. One of the courtyards contains the statue of Confucius guarded by two beautiful bronze storks standing on turtles. Another feature of the temple is the steles. Between 1442 and 1779, hundreds of stone tablets, or steles were erected to record the names and achievements of the graduates. Eighty-two of the steles remain and are considered the most valuable artifacts at the temple. The temple highlights the importance that Vietnamese society placed then and now on education.

Emperor Ly Thai Tong built one of Hanoi's most famous landmarks, the One Pillar Pagoda in 1049 in honor of the Goddess of Mercy. The pillar was destroyed in 1954, but the pagoda was quickly rebuilt. The design of the pagoda reflects the Buddhist belief that the world was created much as a lotus flower emerges from the water. The pagoda is built above a small pond covered in lotus blossoms.

Hoan Kiem Lake is at the heart of Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam.  In the morning, local residents gather and jog around a peaceful lake ringed by trees; or simply support each other complete Tai Chi practices.  In the evening, more people would gather in lakeside cafes and ice-cream parlours to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and share their daily events.  The Lake also has a rich and colourful history too. In the 15th century, after Emperor Le Thai To had drove the invading Chinese with a magical sword, a giant tortoise seized his sword whilst he rowed in Hoan Kiem Lake.    He took this sign as an intervention from above to signify that peace shall be restored.  Thereafter, he renamed the lake to Ho Hoan Kiem or translated to “Lake of the Restored Sword”.

A walk through the Old Quarter, also known as the 36 Streets offers a glimpse in to Vietnamese life from ages past. In the early 13th century, guilds and artisans clustered their shops around certain streets. As time went by the narrow lanes adopted the names of the particular guild or goods sold there. Hence you can still walk from Fish Street to Tin Street to Bamboo Street. It’s a great place to explore on foot with numerous photo opportunities. There are also two ancient houses in the Old Quarter that are especially worth visiting:

Built over 110 years ago, this house is one of the two ancient homes in Hanoi's Old Quarter, which were carefully restored as part of Hanoi's 990th Anniversary in 2000. The house is a typical Old Quarter "tube house" 2 meters wide and 60 meters long with open yards between rooms for air and light. The house is arranged strictly in accordance with "Feng Shui" rules and is vividly decorated in a traditional style.

This house, built on the foundations of a 17th century trader's home has been renovated to reflect the architecture and decorative styles of old Hanoi. The first floor is designed for trading purposes and living accommodation, the second for the family altar and the act of worshipping.

The Hanoi Opera House is one of Hanoi's grandest buildings. The exterior is a delightful mix of French neo-classical design with shuttered windows, wrought iron balconies and tiles friezes. Construction of the Hanoi Opera House began in 1901 and was completed in 1911.

Water puppetry is a remarkable Vietnamese art form combining traditional music, fireworks and elaborate puppets floating gracefully on the water. The stories depict Vietnamese legends, peasant life and local festivals. The art form dates back to the 10th century and originally these plays would have taken place on lakes and ponds during the monsoon season. The stories remain the same but now the production takes place in a specially designed theatre with a stage knee-deep in water. The puppeteers are hidden behind a bamboo screen and the whole experience is both entertaining and amusing.

This is a must-see for anyone intending to visit either Mai Chau or Sapa, or indeed anyone interested in Vietnam’s cultural diversity. The museum is widely acknowledged as the best in the country and has an extensive display dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 Ethnic minority peoples. As well as the comprehensive array of exhibits inside, there are also traditional tribal houses reconstructed within the grounds.

Quan Thanh Temple was built during the reign of King Ly Thai To (1010 - 1028). The temple honors Saint Tran Vu, a legendary figure who helped King An Duong Vuong chase away demons during the construction of Co Loa Citadel. The central feature of the temple is a giant, black, bronze statue of Tran Vu cast in 1667.

With origins dating back to the 6th century Tran Quoc is one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam. The pagoda's unique design features a visitor hall, two corridors and a bell tower. Inside are numerous statues, the most notable of which is the wooden statue of the Shakyamuri Buddha. The oldest stele was built in 1639 and depicts the pagoda's history. Several burial stupas in the garden are relics of one of the earliest Zen Buddhist groups in North Vietnam.

Bat Trang Ceramics Village (in existence for at least 500 years) is approximately 10km northeast of Hanoi and lies on the left side of the Red River bank.  It specializes in crafting ritual objects, and producing household utensils such as bowls, plates, vases, cups and pots.  Recently, the village has diversified its holdings and started to offer fine art ceramics and high quality porcelain.  The village artisans' skills in providing handicrafts remain unmatched and non-rivalled.




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