Hanoi

 

Hanoi, situated in the midst of the fertile Red River delta, is a bustling capital city against the backdrop of a thousand years of history and culture.  Here is where East meets West, and the ancient architecture of former citadel entrance stands side by side modern day sky scrapers.

 

The Old Quarter and French Quarter are two distinctive areas where the rich historical and cultural heritage of the city are displayed.  During 11th century, Emperor Ly Thai To issued an edict to fill up the tributaries criss-crossing the Red River Delta to form what is Old Quarter today.  The narrow streets, where traffic and vendors are a constant sight, are what were previously waterways where goods from all over the surrounding provinces were carried into Hanoi by boats.  

 

A series of 36 ancient streets, each selling its own unique merchandise, e.g. fish sauce, salt, drums etc., interspersed the Old Quarter.  Over the passage of time, the streets took on the name of the products sold, thus “Silver Street” is known because of the silver products sold there and along “Hang Ma” one can find all the paper foldings which the locals buy to display in their houses during Tet and Mid-Autumn festivals or to burn to the dead.  Houses in the Old Quarter are long with a narrow frontage (the locals call these “tube” houses), as opposed to the wide and spacious colonial architecture found along the tree boulevards in the French Quarter. 

 

Places of interest in Hanoi worth a visit include the following:

 

Ho Chi Minh Complex, located in the grounds of Ba Dinh Square, which includes the mausoleum, museum and former residence of President Ho Chi Minh, as well as the One-Pillar Pagoda.

 

Temple of Literature, built in A.D. 1070, is the first university of Vietnam where mandarin scholars were educated to prepare for service in the Emperor’s court.

 

Dong Xuan market, a wholesale market where the best bargains for almost everything in Hanoi can be found.

 

Museum of Ethnology, one of the finest museums in Hanoi, presenting the cultures, customs, and lifestyles of all 54 ethnic people groups of Vietnam. 

 

Hoa Lo or Hanoi’s “Hilton”, a former French prison built in 1896, now turned in a museum.

 

Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautiful lake with a sword legend, situated in between the French Quarter and Old Quarter.

 

Thang Long Theatre by Hoan Kiem lake, where traditional and colourful water puppets dance over a splish-splash of water to recount famous Vietnamese legends.

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