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HISTORICAL HANOI

City of Contrasts

Sandip Hor was enthralled by life in Vietnam’s vibrant capital

The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is located in the Red River Delta. Here’s a vibrant city with wide tree lined boulevards, expansive lakes, colonial architecture and gracious squares, all of which are busy with people.

Beyond its energetic setting is the great mix of old and new, ranging from communism and capitalism to traditional Vietnamese culture that shakes hands with 21st century Western attributes. National hero Ho Chi Minh’s legacy shares the air with French colonial rulers, old street markets and modern shopping malls draw similar attention while local culinary delights compete favourably with fast food chains.

HO CHI MINH Hanoi is packed with memoirs of Ho Chi Minh. This includes his humble home, offices and museums that display numerous photographs, documents and personal memorabilia portraying a thrilling life.

However, the most significant site is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Following his death in 1969, Ho Chi Minh’s body was preserved in a glass coffin inside a colossal granite structure solemnly guarded by immaculately white uniformed military. This is a site of pilgrimage for the Vietnamese people.

ROYAL CITADEL Over 1,300 years old, the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long transports visitors to a time when Thăng Long was imperial Vietnam’s capital city.

This expansive walled complex with imposing entry gates once comprised impressive palaces, temples and pagodas – the foundations of which were discovered during recent excavations.

OLD QUARTER A hive of colour and vivacity, this captivating quarter was established in the 15th century. It had 36 lanes and each one specialised in a particular trading guild. Today, the same thoroughfares are lined with various shops, which continue to thrive in a similar atmosphere of trade.

FRENCH LEGACY The French occupied Hanoi for almost 70 years and their legacy marks the older part of the city. The most notable sites are the Presidential Palace of Vietnam, the Hanoi Opera House, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Long Biên Bridge and the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.

LAKESIDE LIFE Hoàn Kiếm Lake is the epicentre of the city that buzzes with activity day and night. The most important site here is the revered Ngoc Son Temple, which sits on a small island that’s connected to the shore by a red bridge.

ABSOLUTE MUSTS Eat pho (beef noodle soup) at a wayside eatery, watch the water puppet theatre and ride in a ‘cyclo’ (a cycle rickshaw) through the old quarter.

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