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Hanoi, a city in North Vietnam, has been its capital for almost a thousand years now, since the 11th century AD. This Asian city is distinguished by its unusual cultural mix.
Hanoi, a city in North Vietnam, has been its capital for almost a thousand years now, since the 11th century AD. This Asian city is distinguished by its unusual cultural mix, which combines East and West, communism and traditional Chinese culture, and posters depicting the hammer and sickle and French architecture.
Hanoi is traversed by the River Hongha (the Yellow River) which served as the platform for its development for hundreds of years. Today, the city is divided into 7 central districts (or quậns) and surrounded by suburbs (huens). Among the most fascinating of districts is the charming Old Quarter, called 36 Fo-Fiong in the local language, a labyrinth of narrow streets, which has recently become a large commercial district.
In 1975, when the communist North occupied Saigon, thus ending the civil war, Hanoi became the symbol of a unified Vietnam. The founder of the country’s communist party – the revolutionary Ho Chi Minh is seen as the unifier of Vietnam and the nation’s father-figure to this day. For the locals, this man, having banished the French and the Japanese, and fought the Americans, has become more than just a hero. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one of the most popular tourist sites in the entire city.
Hanoi’s main selling point is the fact that it’s relatively free of tourists. Here, you’re at no risk of getting lost among the crowds of nosy travellers, who can take away the charm from any well-known city or country.
Here, plunging into the atmosphere of ages past is as easy as feeling as if you’re in the Soviet Union. Those interested in seeing how the city looked in the 19th century should visit the Old Town, the locals markets and the especially noteworthy Silk Street and flower market Kuangba. Here you’ll also find several excellent lakes which will give you a nice shade and a number of meadows to rest in.
Even though most tourists see Hanoi as a mere stopover on the way to the ancient capital Huế or the resort city Hạ Long, if you stay here for a few days you will no doubt enrich your journeys in Vietnam with interesting details and pleasant memories.
The most popular means of transportation in Hanoi are motorcycles. They are also the best for exploring the city centre and its surroundings. Most hotels and guesthouses rent bikes, mopeds and scooters to their customers. Be careful, though, as traffic here is truly Oriental – few traffic lights and parking lots, and plenty of thieves and undisciplined drivers.
Those who would like to see the city’s true face should visit one of its markets, such as the Hang Da, which is a large space at the city centre where you can find anything you want, from jewellery and souvenirs, to second-hand clothes and animals. Here you can also try some local food and drink, and perhaps even get an amulet – a snake’s eye in ferret’s syrup – that will protect you from all manner of misfortune.
Vietnam’s capital is an important economic and cultural centre. Here you’ll find an international airport (the Noi Bai), and a sea harbour located in the nearby city Haiphong. Hanoi has well-developed metalworking, textile, wood, leather processing, chemistry and food industries. It also has a university, lots of museums, a botanical garden, the Mot Kot Pagoda (built in 1049 AD) and the famous Temple of Literature, built to honour Confucius (11th century AD).
Spring is an excellent time to visit the city – apart from a bit of rain, the weather is bound to be properly warm and pleasant. Nature will delight you with some fantastic blooming flower aromas and refreshing gusts of wind. Coming here during the summer, however, is not such a good idea – at this time, it is very hot here and lots of mosquitoes.
Hanoi’s autumn spoils one with splendid weather. At this time, you can take many walks outside and enjoy the blooming Cây hoa sữa trees. The winters, on the other hand, will only be bearable to tourists coming in from northern latitudes – they’re very cold and humid.