Experience Hanoi Travel Guide
If Saigon is the beating heart of Vietnam, Hanoi is every other organ. Hanoi is the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the center of politics, culture, science and technology as well as a major trading point for international goods and services for the country.
Pack your bags my friends. We’re going to take you on a journey through one of the most tantalising and addictive cities in the world. And, you don’t have to get out of your pyjamas!
Starting with a brief history lesson always enables travelers to understand a culture in more detail. It also sets a context and insight into a country’s ideals and values. Vietnam’s history is juicy, tragic and ancient.
Since King Ly Thai To chose Dai La near the To Lich River estuary as a place for the eternal capital over 1000 years ago, Vietnam has experienced a tumultuous past. Hanoi has witnessed the rise and fall of most of Vietnam’s feudal dynasties, including Ly, Tran, Le, Mac and Nguyen.
In fact, the city celebrated its 1,000th anniversary in early October 2010 by staging and co-ordinating a number of events that culminated with a massive parade. Happy birthday Hanoi!
Vietnam War – the aftermath and Hanoi’s role
As a modern capital, Hanoi has faced intense obstacles in their pursuit for freedom, happiness and unification. War ravaged their small country for many years, threatening to tear down its unique culture and lifestyle. But the incredible Vietnamese people are resilient, and have bounced back with the grace and fighting spirit that makes the people so exceptional.
Hanoi played a pivotal role in the Vietnam War. Operation Linebacker II or The Christmas Bombings, or the December Bombings was the biggest ever bombing campaign. Taking place 45 years ago, the US dropped more than 20,000 tonnes of explosives on North Vietnam, focusing primarily on the city of Hanoi. As a result, it is estimated that 1000 Vietnamese people perished in the attacks. Over a Christmas Day break, the Vietnamese planned their resistance and prepared to fight back with force. Bombings like these took place in 1965, 1968 and 1972, causing widespread damage and destruction to the city. In 1976, after the collapse of the south, The Socialist Republic of Vietnam took power, and Hanoi was (once again) established as the nation’s capital.
As the capital, Hanoi holds the key to the future of Vietnam. It’s a city that has been created and developed by its people. These strong values will continue to build the country’s tangible and intangible assets with regard to culture, belief and architecture.
Described as the ‘City of Rivers’, Hanoi’s natural landscape has a certain charm and romance about it. Dotted with natural and artificial lakes, rivers and streams, the city is a maze of greenery and flowing water, with over 100 waterways. The most famous and most popular with locals are Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. Hanoi’s lakes not only create a cool climate for the city – an urban micro climate – but are also stunningly beautiful.
Culture and Traditions
Hanoi is a like a Banh Mi, bursting with flavors, textures and ingredients. Filled with engaging experiences and educational journeys, Hanoi’s cultural traditions are plentiful and fun.
You cannot miss Hanoi Old Quarter, the Temple of Literature, Thang Long Old Imperial Citadel, the Hanoi Opera Theatre and the French Quarter. If you’re into your buildings, focus on incredible architecture like Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Soviet Friendship Hall. Or even upper class modern buildings and shopping centers like Trang Tien Plaza, Lotte Marts, Royal City, Time City or Hanoi Eco-park will have you weak at the knees.
One of the most famous sights this eclectic city is the wreckage of a B52 fighter plane. During the war, this plane crashed into a lake in the heart of the city, and the remnants of the shell, wings, cockpit and even wheels are still visible. The skeleton of the plane protrudes from the lake at an angle, and attracts people from far and wide. Fluorescent green algae has developed around the fighter plane, giving it a surreal and unearthly quality.
Food, glorious food
Of course, we would never leave out our favorite foodies. The heart and soul of cultural Hanoi is its cuisines, especially the unmissable chance to sample Hanoi street foods and the fine dining dishes in a high-end restaurant or hotel. Whoever has lived or has visited Hanoi and tasted a steamy hot bowl of Hanoi Pho with chicken or beef, will have the flavors embedded on their taste buds for years to come. The aroma of barbecue pork along the roadside in Hanoi’s Bun Cha or the texture and taste of Hanoi grilled fish named Cha Ca La Vong that will leave your taste buds tingling and screaming for more.
The sights, sounds, smells and soul of the city will confound, confront and endear you to this exceptional water city. The placid people will greet you as you walk around Hoan Kim Lake observing the vibrancy and beauty of the daily life that goes on all around you. Hanoi and its charm is one of the best cities in the world, and you’ll never forget it.
To visit Vietnam, you must have a Vietnam Tourist Visa.