Hanoi has held the position of capital of Vietnam for more than a thousand years, despite invasions, restorations, occupations and name changes. It is the second largest city in the country, and is the perfect contrast to the busy chaos of Ho Chi Minh City. It has a more laid back style and really is the cultural capital and the heart and soul of Vietnam.
Despite all of the battles that have raged over Hanoi throughout the centuries, it still retains much of its older colonial charm, well preserved in its narrow and atmospheric streets. It has a subtle and understated charm and makes a perfect base for exploring the North of Vietnam.
Hanoi really is the perfect blend of the exotic mystery of ancient Asia and the dynamic spirit of modern Asia. It has the culture and the grace of a grand European city such as Paris, but the rapid pace and lively culture of an Asian metropolis. Watch out for swarming motorbikes and fast-talking vendors in conical hats, and then relax with a fresh baguette and café au lait in the many street cafés that mark the colonial French influence here. Hanoi has it all for travelers to discover, from ancient history to modern charm.
A Cultural Center
Many Vietnamese dynasties have left their imprint upon the thousand-year capital, and the city is full of historical monuments of these past stories. Hanoi is home to more cultural sites and any city in Vietnam, including over 600 pagodas and temples !
Over the years, Hanoi has attracted creative and talented artists and craftspeople from all over the country, and is has become an epicenter of the art scene in Vietnam. It is the cultural base for the development of civilization and the style of life in Vietnam. During a visit to this capital city, guests will discover that the people of Hanoi are knowledge-thirsty, quick-witted, highly inventive, and always eager to strive for a better life and a better community while helping one another.
Historical Sites to Explore
The Old Quarter is a particularly interesting area to explore, and visitors can see the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. This area is famous for the traditional merchants and artisans, including many beautiful silk shops. It is also a wonderful place to discover local cuisine specialties and to explore the night market when the sun goes down every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.
Ho Chi Minh Museum is also a great attraction to explore during an adventure in Hanoi. The museum was designed by Soviet architects and its shape is meant to represent a lotus flower. The Ho Chi Minh Museum is dedicated to the life of the former president and features many displays, photographs and personal items.
French Colonial Influences
The French made Hanoi the capital of French Indochina in 1902, and the city is often called the "Paris of the Orient". Large areas of present-day Hanoi were constructed during the French occupation, and the influence of the French is reflected in the broad and leafy boulevards, large green parks, and French architecture, which give the city a certain refined charm. As you stroll down the streets of Hanoi, you will see the influences of French culture reflected throughout the city.
The Quality and Variety of Vietnamese Cuisine
Vietnamese cuisine is very diverse and delicious, and will be a highlight of the journey through Hanoi. The ingredients are always fresh and healthy, making the dishes satisfying and tasty. One of the staple dishes is Pho Ga which is chicken noodle soup and "Pho Bo" which is beef noodle soup. Other flavors common to Vietnamese cuisine are fish sauce, rice, fresh herbs, soy sauce, and fresh fruit and vegetables. The strong aromatic and flavorful tastes of Vietnamese cuisine comes from the range of herbs used in cooking, such as lemongrass, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, and Thai basil leaves. Although Vietnamese cooking uses fish, chicken, beef, port and seafood, vegetarian food is also easy to find because of the strong Buddhist and Chinese values here.