Vietnam's elegant capital
than Saigon, but more beautiful
and the surrounding area have plenty to interest visitors.
Its central area is compact – most of the main attractions
are within walking distance. Tree-lined boulevards, colonial
buildings and many lakes make pleasant routes for a pedestrian
tour. If you don't mind becoming an attraction for the Vietnamese,
a ‘cyclo’ tour can be a less strenuous way of seeing some
of the sites. Visitors that are more adventurous may be attracted
by cycling or riding on the back of a motorcycle – however,
this is a decision best made after you've seen the traffic
also a remarkably safe city. The level of crime is low, and
what exists hardly ever involves violence. Apart from commonsense
precautions, extra security measures are unnecessary.
heart of Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter in
central Hanoi are thronged with people throughout the day.
Nearby, in an attractive setting, is the Hanoi Municipal Theatre,
better known as the Opera House, a smaller version of its
cousin in Paris and now restored to its original grandeur.
The adjacent Hanoi Opera hotel is one of the few modern buildings
that enhance an architectural classic anywhere in Vietnam.
guests will be offered tickets for any interesting performances
at the Opera House during their time in the capital. You'll
also be invited to a performance of water puppetry, an art
form unique to North Vietnam and an interesting, humorous
introduction to its traditional culture.
Ho Chi Minh complex
The area dedicated to the late President
Ho Chi Minh is well worth a visit. Viewing his embalmed body
in an imposing mausoleum is a somewhat macabre experience,
but the nearby museum and his modest small stilt house provide
a valuable insight into the life and times of one of the most
successful leaders of the 20th century. Close by is the magnificent
Presidential Palace, unfortunately not open to visitors.
Van Mieu, (the Temple of Literature)
dates back to the 11th century and is the oldest university
in Vietnam (and one of the oldest in the world). Recently
restored, it is a now an attractive and informative monument
not far from the city centre.
Further out is the Museum of Ethnology - we rate it as the
best museum in Vietnam. It gives an in-depth overview of the
complex life-styles, traditions and handicrafts of the 54
ethnic groups of Vietnam, well-presented and effectively interpreted.
Also of note, but more traditional in their approach, are
the History Museum, the Army Museum and the Fine Arts Museum.
On a much smaller scale, both physically and financially,
the Women's Museum focuses on the role of women in the community
and that of the ‘Long-haired Army’, the many women who fought
and died alongside the men of the Viet Minh and the Viet Cong.
Hanoi currently boasts Vietnam’s most modern airport, Noi
Bai, opened only a couple of years ago 35 km from the city,
and already planning a second terminal. The city has seven
five-star hotels and a wide range of hotels at lower standards.
There is a large variety of restaurants offering most of the
main international cuisines and nearly all of the differing
styles of Vietnamese food. They range from top-flight gourmet
establishments with prices to match, to street-side ‘cafés’
where a filling meal often costs less than a dollar.
a shopper’s paradise. There are retail outlets ranging from
massive indoor markets to humble street stalls, upmarket designer
brands, western-style supermarkets and, of course, the commercial
centre in the Old Quarter where you can find practically anything
from ripped-off DVD's for less than a dollar to a tastefully
designed tombstone with your likeness inscribed into the stone.
are plenty of banks and currency exchange outlets, and ATM's
dispensing local currency are now commonplace.
are cheap, metered and usually reliable. 'Cyclos'
and 'Xe Oms' are a different matter!