Vietnam’s capital Hanoi is a city where east and west clash, chaos and quiet co-exist and the old and new sit side by side. While tourists have been visiting Hanoi for years, the city still remains one of Asia’s best kept secrets. It is here in the thick of Hanoi that you can ride the buzzing streets on a scooter, seek out the best street food and find peace in the city’s ancient temples.
1. Visit Ho Chi Minh
A holiday in Hanoi wouldn’t be without a visit to the mausoleum dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s previous president and prime minister. The revolutionary leader is widely beloved for playing a major role in establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Today his mausoleum stands in the centre of Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh read the country’s Declaration of Independence in 1945. The mausoleum still attracts visitors today, though guidelines are strict and visitors must visit the site silently and be dressed appropriately.
Next door to the mausoleum is the Ho Chi Minh Museum, here is where you will learn about Hanoi’s political history and the life of Ho Chi Minh. The museum is documents his life starting with his early life in 1890 -1910 and going through until his death. You can request a guided tour of the museum and descriptions are written in both English and French.
2. Watch the water puppets
More than just a popular tourist attraction, water puppetry is a Vietnamese tradition dating back to the 11th century. This form of puppetry involves wooden puppets performing in a waist deep pool, the unique aspect being that the puppets are made to look like they are moving on water. Performances are often accompanied by music featuring drums, cymbals, horns, gongs and bamboo flutes. Don’t miss a water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, one of Hanoi’s premier theatres.
3. A taste of France
Once the capital of French Indochina, Hanoi’s French heritage is visible in the city’s French Quarter. Located just south of the Old Quarter is the French Quarter which is characterised by grand tree lined boulevards and elegant French colonial buildings. Highlights you won’t want to miss include the Opera House and the decadent St Joseph’s Cathedral. Exploring the area on a walking tour is a great way to see it all while learning about the city’s unique history.
4. Dine at KOTO restaurant
Street food in Hanoi is always a highlight but why not enjoy a more meaningful dining experience at KOTO restaurant? Not only is the food delicious and authentic, but KOTO is a not-for-profit restaurant staffed by disadvantage youths. Established by an ex-Australia, the restaurant’s name stands for ‘Know One Teach One’ and aims to train disadvantaged youths to become highly skilled hospitality professionals. A delicious dining experience that gives back to the community.
5. Wander the Hoan Kiem Lake
Escape the bustle of the city for a peaceful walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, a serene lake located in the historical centre of Hanoi. Shrouded by myth and legend, the lake’s story surrounds Emperor Lê Loi, who was said to have handed a magic sword that bought him victory against the Chinese Ming Dynasty, back to the Golden Turtle. As such Hoan Kiem translates to mean Lake of the Returned Sword, and features a tower called the Turtle Tower in the middle of the lake. Walk across the iconic red Huc Bridge to Jade Island where you can explore the beautiful Temple of the Jade Mountain.
Book your flights to Hanoi today and enjoy an Asian adventure with these five great Hanoi experiences.
About the Author: Lauren Buvill – I’m a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling you’ll find me playing mermaids while snorkelling the reefs of the South Pacific or foraging through the flea markets of Paris.