Hanoi, the oldest capital city in Southeast Asia, is located in the Red River Delta in the center of Northern Vietnam. Up to now, Hanoi has been one of the few cities in Asia left entirely void of the western-style boxy business architecture. With the history of more than 1000 years, Hanoi has a lot of interesting things to see. Many ancient architectural features are still preserved, particularly in the fascinating warren of streets known as the Old Quarter. Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city. Stroll or ride by cyclo through the lively "Old Quarter" and shop for silk, lacquer and ceramics, enjoy famed water puppet theatre... are great ways to discover its charm.
In the soul of any Vietnamese citizen, Hanoi has always been a symbol of culture and a source of pride throughout the history.
Hoan Kiem Lake - Hanoi
From Hanoi, there are lots of sourrounding sites to explore. Inside the city, Ho Chi Minh Complex (Including Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Museum, One Pillar Pagoda) is a place that most travelers should not miss. Temple of Literature - some minutes walking from HCM Complex - is the oldest university in Vietnam. To have an overview of Northern Vietnam’s culture in general or Hanoi in paricular, pay a visit to these places: Museum of Ethnology, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Museum of Women, Hoa Lo Prison, Hoan Kiem Lake with Ngoc Son Temple nearby, Museum of History… Get farther to around 10-20km into the "widen Hanoi", traditional trade villages such as Bat Trang Ceramic Village, Duong Lam Ancient Village, Van Phuc Silk Village...are so attractive for their unique characteristic.
Hanoi is also the initial point for those who want to extend the visit to the famous Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh Province (Hoa Lu Citadel, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Nature Reserves Center of Tam Coc, Trang An, Kenh Ga, Van Long…) to the East or Mai Chau Valley, Sapa Hill Station to the North West; or Ba Be Lake, Ha Giang mountainous province… to the North East.
ONE PILLAR PAGODA: Located in Ngoc Ha, in the Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, on the west side of the ancient capital of Thang Long. The One Pillar Pagoda is architecturally-unique example of Vietnam's pagodas. It was first built in 1049 during the Ly Dynasty, on the west side of the ancient capital of Thang Long. Its original name was Dien Huu, expressing a wish for longevity of the second Ly emperor. The pagoda has the shape of a lotus blooming on its stem.
TRAN QUOC PAGODA: The Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest pagoda currently standing in Hanoi. It was constructed in the sixth century during the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De and was then named Khai Quoc, meaning "founding the country." At first it was built outside the Yen Phu Dyke and the move to West Lake. It has been named An Quoc, Tran Quoc and Tran Bac with architecture harmonious with nature, the pagoda complements the beautiful scenery around the lake.
HOAN KIEM LAKE AND NGOC SON TEMPLE: Hoan Kiem Lake, or the Lake of the Restored Sword, is located directly in the centre of Hanoi. The name is derived from a legend involving Emperor Le Thai To, in which he came across a giant tortoise while cruising on the lake. The tortoise took his sword that had secured victory against the Chinese aggressors of the Minh Dynasty. The emperor named the lake after this episode.
Hoan Kiem was already considered the most beautiful lake in Hanoi when Ngoc Son Temple was built on a small island during the 19th century. Saint Van Xuong, considered one of the brightest stars of Vietnam's literature and intellectual circles, was worshipped here. National hero Tran Hung Dao was also worshipped after he lad the Vietnamese people to victory over both Mongolian and Chinese invaders.
THE TEMPLE OF LITERATURE: The temple of Literature (Van Mieu) is a famous ancient monument consisting of the Temple of Literature and Vietnam's first university. The Temple of Literature was built in 1070 in honour of Confucius.
Six years later, Quoc Tu Giam, the first university of Vietnam, was on the premises of Van Mieu. It was the first educational school for royal family members, and it was later opened to talented students. In 1482 Emperor Le Thanh Tong ordered the erection of stela with inscriptions of the names, places of birth, and achievements of graduates who had taken examinations since 1442. Presently 82 stela stand at Van Mieu.
Airport code: HAN (Noi Bai International Airport).
Noi Bai airport is 35km from Hanoi, about 1 hour drive. You can get into the city by taxi or minibus. Domestic connections with Dien Bien Phu, Hue, Danang, Nha Trang, Buon Me Thuot, Dalat, Pleiku, Qui Nhon, Phu Quoc, Vinh, Can Tho, Hochiminh City.
Hanoi train station located at 120 Le Duan St. There are regular daily connections with Hochiminh city. Advance booking is required. There are also trains to Haiphong, Lang Son, Beijing, Kunming (China).
There is a good coach service to go to other cities and provinces. There are some main coach stations in Hanoi:
• Gia Lam Station which is located on Nguyen Van Cu St., Long Bien District. Minibuses and coaches depart for Haiphong, Halong Bay, Lang Son and northern, eastern, north-western and the north-eastern provinces.
• Luong Yen Station: located at 03 Nguyen Khoai Street. Daily bus going to Quang Ninh Province (including Ha Long & Mong Cai), Hai Phong...
• My Dinh Station is at 20 Pham Hung Street, Cau Giay Dist., Hanoi. From here, daily coaches depart for the western provinces and towns.
• Southern Station, 255 Giai Phong Road. Buses depart for all provinces, cities and towns in the South.
• Nuoc Ngam Station: a certain 1km from Southern Station, this Station operates most buses to North Central Land such as Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Hue, ...
What to buy:
Hanoi is a shopping paradise for silk, lacquer ware, wood, custom tailoring and other Asian inspired design. The bargains are among the best in Asia. Artisans and craftsmen have set up shop in the Old Quarter for generations, and each street is named after the item traditionally sold there. Among the more interesting sights are the streets close to the lake full of nothing but stores overflowing with wave upon wave of white shoes, and a few shops offering to custom-carve black marble tombstones (complete with portrait) for anyone passing by. In the quarter between Hoan Kiem Lake and the Cathedral, you'll find numerous shops with the same selection but of better quality. Vendors know that, so prices are higher than in the Old Quarter. Shops can sometimes arrange shipment to overseas destinations, and even with the added costs you'll still have a bargain. There are two major shopping malls in Hanoi, Trang Tien Plaza and the new-built Vincom City Towers. Both are located in the Hoan Kiem District.
How to design your tours in Hanoi:
Three days in Hanoi are enough for this city, the first day you can do City tour of Hanoi, the second day tour to Cuchi Tunnels, the last day to have a full day tour to Mekong Delta, in case you don’t have more time left. If you have one more day, I would recommend you stay one night in Mekong Delta.
Watch out when crossing the road.
Don’t take cyclo, a kind of trishaw on your own.
Watch out your wallets as you are in the crowded markets.
Bargain hard as you shop in local markets and from street vendors./.