Hanoi, the ancient capital in the north of Vietnam is quite a contrast to the bustling, developed south of the country. A few days in Hanoi is an essential part of any Vietnam travel experience.
The serenity of its lakes and tree-lined boulevards partners with the cramped streets of the old quarter, which is full of traditional shops and workrooms.
Each street has its own ‘theme’, for example musical instrument street, herbal medicine street, and we mustn’t forget crazy temple decorations street where you can buy piles of pretend paper money to burn as an offering to the gods!
You could wander here for days and see something bizarre or wonderful every few minutes.
Then there is the gracious Hanoi precinct of colonial buildings, including the opera house and many government offices and embassies.
I couldn’t resist going to see the mausoleum of ‘Uncle’ Ho Chi Minh, to shuffle past the tiny waxy figure and gaze curiously at his former villa across the lake. There is even a statue of Vladimir Illich Lenin nearby to keep him company.
Vietnam is an amazing country to visit and I was sorry to leave. I think that it is changing very fast and will be a very different country in 10 years time, when the throngs of bicycles and motor scooters will be superseded by cars.
Vietnam is a very complex country, so full of unexpected beauty amidst the inheritance of destruction, so aware of the value of the tourist dollar. In fact so aware of the importance of the growing economy – beyond any political ideology. My memories of visiting Hanoi will always be fond ones.
Once you’ve seen Hanoi plan the rest of your two-week Vietnam itinerary with the help of this post.
By Natasha von Geldern