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Hanoi

Through the course of its 1000-year-long history, Hanoi has played a major part in the history of Vietnam. It was a major player from the start, and especially during the French colonial days. But then the country was divided for a few decades before finally being reunited at the end of the war with America, and Hanoi was once again proclaimed as Vietnam's capital city.
Hanoi moves at a slower rate than its southern counterpart of Ho Chi Minh City, but it has more character. Its French colonial architecture is arrayed on peaceful tree-lined streets, and the historic Old Quarter has rows of rustic shops with old men sitting outside playing cards for hours, often enjoying a glass of strong and sweet coffee with friends. The cuisine of the north varies from the south as well, especially with the national dish of Pho, a Vietnamese and French fusion dish of steaming hot noodle soup made with classic French techniques. You see cauldrons of stock bubbling away outside small restaurants; our guides will take you to taste the best in the city.Things to See and Do:

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is where the embalmed body of Ho Chin Minh - or Uncle Ho, as he is affectionately known to the Vietnamese people - resides, cased in an impressive but sombre mausoleum. It is an interesting place to visit, especially if you are with local Vietnamese, who show nothing but deference for their old leader.
 
The Temple of Literature is the country's first university, located just behind the Ho Chin Minh Mausoleum, and founded in 1070. The names of the graduates are carved into stone tablets, which are mounted on the back of stone tortoises. It’s an interesting temple, and easy to see as it is so close to the Mausoleum.
 
The Hoa Lo Prison was known as the Hanoi Hilton by the American POW’s who were interned here during the American War. It was originally built by the French at the beginning of the 20th Century to house Vietnamese revolutionaries, but used later on for the American Prisoners of War.A lot of the prison has been torn down, and what remains provides an interesting insight into how both the Vietnamese and Americans were kept. There is a lot of propaganda here, but it is worth a visit and is in an interesting part of town.

Hoam Kiem Lake is a pleasant park close to the Old Quarter. Legend has it that King Le Loi was given a magical sword by the Gods to drive out the invading Chinese, but afterwards the sword was lost in the depths of the lake. It’s also a good place to people watch.

The Water Puppet Theatre is one of the highlights of Hanoi. Daily performances depict folk legends of Vietnamese history with live musicians and wooden puppets. The songs and narration are in Vietnamese but it’s a visual,musical show, so everyone will enjoy it, kids and adults alike; it’s a fun experience.
 
The Museum of Vietnamese Revolution is housed in a beautiful old French colonial building that has a fusion of French and Vietnamese architecture - the combination that became known as Indochine architecture. The museum depicts the struggles firstly against the French and then the Americans.
 
Hoa Lu can be visited on a day trip from Hanoi, combining heritage and natural landscape. This area was part of the first capital of Vietnam back in the 10th Century but today is better known as 'Ha Long Bay on Land', due to the similar karst limestone landforms that are surrounded by paddy fields, all accessed by small boats that gently paddle their way through the caves. It is an odd alternative to Halong Bay if you do not have the time for the overnight stay!

AT A GLANCE

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