Destination > Far East > Vietnam > Hanoi > Overview


The capital of Vietnam has undergone several transformations, with each era playing its part in carving the city into what it is today.

Hanoi has been molded by its past as an Imperialist dynasty, a French Indochina capital and a notorious participant in one of the world’s most appalling wars. Nonetheless, this is not a city that is ashamed of its previous lives. Its museums present the past as a series of tales which turn the town into a premier historical destination. Hanoi’s character is a melding of old world exoticism and new world modernity. It takes the best of Asian coastal living and tosses it next to an Asian metropolitan lifestyle comparable with any Hong Kong street. As a lazy sea side paradise, Hanoi is what Thailand used to be before it became a crowded tourism magnet. Modern Vietnam’s greatest asset is its local culture, which is built on a peculiar blend of commerce, spirituality and tradition. A dash of French ethos has been left behind, adding to the paradoxical nature of a city that has clung to its influences. Holidays in Hanoi, Vietnam leave visitors permanently altered.

Ancient Transformations

When on holiday in Hanoi, Vietnam, let your imagination guide you rather than your itinerary. History buffs will adore the city's many past lives. Hop onto a Vespa and spend a few days absorbing historical sites. The Tran Quoc Pagoda is said to offer the most astonishing sunsets in the world. The one pillared structure was built in the sixth century, and forms part of a Buddhist temple surrounded by watery landscaping. It houses a Bodhi tree that grew from a cutting taken from the original Indian tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. The Vietnam Women’s Museum honours the contributions female citizens have made over time politically, ethnically and artistically. The city also has museums paying tribute to Hanoi's artistic, literary and military heritage. The Old Quarter has a 2000 year history which is beautifully demonstrated through its architecture. A walk through its bustling marketplaces, cafes and stalls is the ideal way to experience local gastronomy.  The Old Quarter has effortlessly linked the ancient and modern worlds through relics, art and cuisine, which are best observed at a lazy pace on foot. Participating in street trade places you in the midst of a tradition that has existed in this particular web of streets for a thousand years.

Myths and Fables

Hanoi's legends are as prominent as its real world history. The Hoan Kiem lake is home to a legend in which a turtle deity stole an emperor's enchanted sword. It was later reclaimed and used to defeat the Chinese Ming dynasty. Ironically, the lake is one of the few ecosystems supporting a critically endangered soft shell turtle species. Today, the lake attracts daily joggers, chess fiends and newlyweds seeking panoramic photographic backdrops.  Ha Long Bay is home to a legendary gathering of jewel-breathing dragons, which were sent by the gods to defend the land against invaders. Temples naturally attract a substantial number of legends, giving tours an element of enchantment. The Tower of Hanoi's legend tells of the temple's priests who were assigned a mathematical puzzle when time began. According to myth, when the puzzle was solved, the world would disappear. One of the most charming ways to learn about local legends is through the traditional art of Water Puppetry. These shows encourage the spirits to bring rich harvests. They depict short skits featuring dances by mythical creatures and tales of ancient village life. No holidays in Hanoi, Vietnam are complete without amusing encounters with this thousand year old tradition.

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