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Hanoi Overview

Geography of Hanoi
Hanoi Population
Hanoi Tourist Information Center
Hanoi Accommodation
Hanoi Tourism
Hanoi Weather
Hanoi Language
Hanoi Tourist Attractions
History of Hanoi

Hanoi Museums

 Hanoi Tourist Attractions

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Hanoi Overview    HANOI CITY TOURS

Hanoi Overview

Hanoi is a hectic collage of sights, sounds and smells. Masses of motorbikes roar down roadways, and bike and car horns are constantly honking. Women wearing traditional conical straw hats carry poles with baskets on each end, small shops overflow with colorful embroidery, food vendors sell cooked pigeons with their heads still on, and signs literally cover buildings.

As the northern capital, Hanoi was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War. Still there are reminders of the past, including French colonial architecture and 1,000-year-old temples and pagodas. The capital city -- home to four million people -- boasts parks with gnarled banyan trees and many lakes; the one where John McCain was shot down during the war is now peppered with swan boats. The Hoa Lo Prison or "Hanoi Hilton" where Sen. McCain was imprisoned as a POW is now the site of a high-rise. There is not yet a McDonald's in Hanoi, but you can find fine dining, really nice hotels and some high-end shopping options.

Most cruise travelers reach Hanoi via Halong Bay -- the name is shared by the body of water and the small resort town that abuts it. The bay itself is one of Vietnam's most celebrated attractions, with 3,000 limestone islands that make up a spectacular natural UNESCO World Heritage site.

A trip on the water of the bay is the kind of awe-inspiring experience that you crave as a traveler. Sit in a Vietnamese junk (boat) on silk couches and drink green tea as you cruise into the mist of the large bay past giant, craggy limestone formations protruding from the sea.

According to legend, a dragon that fell from the sky, sent by the gods to help the Vietnamese fight Chinese invaders, formed the bay's islands. And in fact, these islands have seen their share of warring -- the bay is on the Gulf of Tonkin, where Vietnamese and U.S. forces first came into conflict.

The islands are mostly uninhabited and many form odd shapes -- one looks like a man's face in profile, another like two cocks fighting. Their sheer cliffs and otherworldly presence has inspired writers, poets and artists. And it's easy to see why. The place is magical.

Note: Halong Bay is the primary port for Hanoi, but ships also dock at Cai Lan and Haiphong. This profile largely focuses on visits to Hanoi, though we do provide information on Halong Bay, as it is a destination in itself. However, unless you are overnighting in port, you will have to choose between exploring Hanoi and Halong Bay.

Introduction to Hanoi

Cleaving the yellow walls of a centuries-old Chinese temple, an old gnarled banyan tree is adorned with flowers and offerings of rice wine and incense. Adjacent to the tree is a designer boutique and gallery, farther on is an Internet cafe, and, out front, an endless stream of honking motorbikes whiz by, rustling the tree's leaves.

If the 200-year-old banyan could speak, it might tell stories of the 19th-century tradesmen who worked on the avenue out front, the arrival of the French, or the introduction of the automobile. It could speak of the years when revolutionary murmurs became skirmishes and barricades lined the streets of the Old Quarter, or of a time -- years later -- when a full-scale war, with an enemy that attacked from the skies, almost completely evacuated the city. It might talk about the quiet years after peace in 1975, years of austerity. And then it might tell of one-time enemies returning as investors, bringing recent years of capitalistic excess.

The most obvious reminders of the past in Hanoi are written in the vestiges of precolonial and colonial buildings -- low facades tucked beneath towers of concrete, especially in the city's Old Quarter. But even these centuries-old structures are recent, considering the rich history here that dates back thousands of years. Through it all, stalwart and struggling for its patch of ground, the old banyan looks on, ready for whatever changes come its way and grappling its crooked arms around new hunks of pavement -- choking on motorbike fumes. A visit to the Vietnamese capital is surely a highlight.

Hanoi ranks among the world's most attractive and interesting cities. Originally named Thang Long or "City of the Ascending Dragon," the city was first the capital of Vietnam in A.D. 1010 and has had many names until its current incarnation. The name Hanoi, in fact, means "bend in the river" and denotes the city's strategic location along the vital waterway. Historians liken the life-giving Red River -- its banks crowded with green rice paddies and farms -- to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a cradle of civilization. . Even when the nation's capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen dynasty in 1802, the city of Hanoi continued to flourish, especially after the French took control in 1888 and modeled the city's architecture to their tastes, lending an important aesthetic to the city's rich stylistic heritage, even expanding the city and adding rail connections over the Long Bien Bridge in 1902. In 1954, after the French departed, Hanoi was declared Vietnam's capital once again. The city boasts more than 1,000 years of history, and that of the past few hundred years is marvelously preserved.

Hanoi has a reputation, doubtless accrued from the Vietnam War years, as a dour northern political outpost. The city is certainly smaller, slower, and far less developed than chaotic Saigon, but Hanoi's 3.5 million residents still seem to be in constant motion -- an endless stream of motorbike and bicycle traffic. You'll see some vestiges of Soviet-influenced concrete monolith architecture here, along with plenty of beautiful, quiet streets and tranquil neighborhoods to explore. The city's placid air gives it a gracious, almost regal flavor. Hanoi is dotted with dozens of lakes -- small and large -- around which you can usually find a cafe, a pagoda or two, and absorbing vignettes of street life.

Among Hanoi's sightseeing highlights are the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum; the National Art Museum; the grisly Hoa Lo Prison (also known as the infamous Hanoi Hilton); central Hoan Kiem Lake, where Hanoians enjoy brisk morning walks or tai chi in a tranquil city landmark that symbolizes the city's mythical origins; and the Old Quarter, whose narrow winding streets are named after the individual trades practiced here since the 15th century. Hanoi is Vietnam's cultural center, and the galleries, puppetry, music, and dance performances are worth staying at least a few days to take in.

You might also want to use the city as a base for excursions throughout the north to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island, to the Ninh Binh area south of Hanoi and Tam Coc, the "Halong Bay in the rice fields," or for a primate encounter at Cuc Phuong National Park. In addition, Hanoi is a jumping-off point for rugged travel in the highlands of the northwest, among hilltribes and along high passes lined with lush terraced rice farms in a loop that includes historic Dien Bien Phu and the old French holiday escape of Sapa, the most popular town in the north that is easily reached by overnight train from Hanoi.

Hanoi Overview

Hanoi is not only the capital of Vietnam; it is the political and cultural center of the country. Hanoi Overview tells us that it is a city begat by mythology and inspired by legends. It has been a survivor of countless violent struggles and political intrigues, sustained on patriotism, ideology and the willful independence of its people. This is a city that has experienced an eventful millennium.
Located on the banks of the Red River with tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake at its heart, Hanoi is the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. North of the lake are the bustling streets of the Old Quarter, each street named after the trade that used to take place there. Hanoi Overview relates the tale about its history when Ho Chi Minh established the Viet Minh during the Second World War in order to gain independence.

History of Hanoi

Hanoi became a French protectorate in the 1880s. There are wide boulevards and large colonial buildings which have now been taken over by government departments and foreign embassies. Vietnam was reunited under Hanoi and communist rule in the year 1974.

The residents of Hanoi faced a hard time reconstructing the austere city. Hanoi had been continuously bombed by the Americans throughout the Vietnam War. Rampant inflation, poverty and repression followed it. The government introduced economic reform or doi moi in 1986, allowing people to own their own businesses. Now Hanoi has been totally transformed and visitors are entranced by the city and its residents.

Geography of Hanoi

Hanoi Overview includes the geography of Hanoi. Hanoi, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, is a pleasant and even charming city. It has famous lakes, shaded boulevards and verdant public parks. You can also witness architectural museum piece. In a nutshell, the city of Hanoi is replete with interesting natural attractions.

Demography of Hanoi

The city of Hanoi has a land area of 2,139 sq.km and a population of about 3,000,000. In the past, Hanoi was first chosen by King Ly Thai To as the capital of the country and was named Thang Long (Descending Dragon) in 1010.

Tourist attractions in Hanoi

Hanoi has undergone many dramatic changes resulting in buildings being razed and rebuilt or replaced by structures of different regimes. The result is a mix of ancient Chinese-influenced Vietnamese, neo-Parisian, Edwardian, French, neo-Vietnamese-French fusion and Soviet-era Russian architectural styles. Despite its turbulent past, Hanoi today is a modernizing city that retains much of its romantic Old World charm. In Hanoi, fall and spring are splendid for discovering this city's many sites-the serene, tree-lined lakes and the many museums, pagodas and tourist attractions that are a testament to its interesting, varied history. Also see the many crafts that began with the 36 original guilds of the Old Quarter.


If you have already been to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi is a city with seasons and moods, two lovely, one too hot, one a bit dreary; a downtown that sleeps at night; a more polite, conservative citizenry; and a long established artistic and intellectual tradition. Hanoi Tourist Information Center caters you with all the necessary information. You can take your pick from the ample accommodation facilities available here.



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