Hanoi, appropriately on a bank of the Red River, 1,760 km (1,000 miles) north of Ho Chi Minh City.
Photo by Iostream01
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the 1,000-year-old capital city is set in a beautiful lake-scattered landscape with
more historic monuments than any other city in Vietnam, plenty of fine culture, delicate cuisine. On the downside crossing the road is a death-defying technique that has to be learned, traffic noise is ever-present and the climate tends towards sticky sub-tropical. More.
The Presidential Palace.
Photo by Jorge Lascar
• Ho's mausoleum. Photo and information below.
• the Old Quarter is a bedlam of busy streets packed with shops selling all kinds of goods, each street named for its primary good or service. It's neither quiet nor clean but strangely odd and engaging.
• the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) is in the Old Quarter and offers some stunning old architecture set in pleasant gardens and stuffed with 1,000 years of history. A guide is worthwhile as there's a lot of interesting information that is not visible or easy to discover. Try visiting late afternoon or early evening when the tourist rush subsides. Photos below.
• One Pillar Pagoda. Photo and information below.
• Thang Long Ca Tru Theatre, an ancient building in the Old Quarter is the place to hear traditional Vietnamese music played on strange and unique instruments. Photo.
• Water Puppet Theatre. Photo and more information.
• Hanoi also encompasses many striking French colonial buildings from its time as the centre of the French Indochina empire, as well as fine Chinese-influenced Vietnamese architecture including many temples.
• Vietnam Women's Museum is pretty place and looks at how women have been involved in Vietnam's history and culture, including military conflicts as well as in commerce, family, fashion.The exhibits are well presented and the exhibits also gives insights into Vietnamese ethnic groups and their rich history.
• the Museum of Ethnology, ethnic tribes displays, is colourful and interesting.
• the over-the-top propaganda in the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution are hilarious.
Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, surrounded by acres of space and plants, in the centre of Hanoi.
Photo by Hoangvantoanajc
The Mausoleum is an unusual experience, viewing the body of Vietnam's number one hero. The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved in a glass case in the cool central hall of the structure. It's open daily from 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon for public viewing and visitors line up en masse, apart from sometime in November/December when Ho travels to Moscow for essential maintenance.
Staff enforce strict rules on dress and behaviour such as all legs must be covered, visitors must be silent, hands must not be in pockets, nor arms crossed. Smoking, drinking, eating, photography and videos are not permitted. Sounds like a traditional English Public School.
Why not follow this up with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Museum for some serious propaganda fluff surrounded by outrageously kitsch 'art'?
And if you're a real fan of Ho Chi Minh you can visit his simple house.
Photo by Jorge Lascar
The best months Hanoi are autumn (October, November) or winter (December, January).
Unlike Ho Chi Minh City 1,600 kms to the south, Hanoi has a humid sub-tropical climate, meaning that it's hot and very wet in summertime with mosquitoes rampant from May to September and average temperatures ranging from 25C-40C (77F-104F).
The winter season is dry and cool, 14C-20C (57F-68F) though the temperature can fall to near freezing and feel worse because it's still quite humid and Vietnamese don't do heating in low cost accommodation, so budget travelers beware the cold.
The Temple of Literature, dedicated to the great Chinese philosopher Confucius.
Photo by Dennis Jarvis
The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu in Vietnamese) was founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong and was the country's first university. The large complex is in a calm, green-shrouded location in the heart of Hanoi.
The Temple of Literature's shrine to Confucius, Chinese teacher, politician and philosopher, 551-479 BC.
Photo by Gryffindor
A few thoughts from Confucius
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
One Pillar Pagoda.
Photo by Bui The Tam
One Pillar Pagoda is a historic Buddhist temple built on the command of Emperor Ly Thai Tong in 1049. It's built of wood on a single stone pillar 1.25 m (about 4') in diameter and designed to resemble a lotus blossom, a Buddhist symbol of purity.
In 1954, French armed forces destroyed the pagoda as they withdrew from Vietnam after the First Indochina War. Bad losers! It was later rebuilt. The pagoda is small, cute and free but beware the packaged hordes, go early or late!
Tourists who like religious structures will find over 500 more in this city.
Hoan Kiem, Lake of the Restored Sword.
Hoan Kiem Lake, one of many in the city, is at the centre of a pretty park near the Old Quarter, popular with strolling local families or exercise folk doing tai chi in the morning. Good for people watching, strolling or even jogging but traffic noise still intrudes.
The Old Quarter is the place to find not only ancient structures but also many of Vietnam's best artisans, quirky little restaurants, clubs, bars and an exuberant night market Friday to Sunday.
Visas in 2013
Unfortunately you cannot just arrive at a Vietnamese airport or border crossing and get a visa, unless you're Scandinavian, Russian or Southeast Asian. Vietnam visa information
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