Hanoi is the capital of modern Vietnam, it was named capital of the unified country after the end of the war in 1975. It is a fascinating combination of cultures, as east meets west, in a glorious architectural mix of French colonial, ancient Chinese and modern design. Known as the City of Lakes, its main two are the West Lake and Hoan Kiem.
As one would expect with any capital city it is a center for great food and entertainment. The restaurants, cafés and bars in the city are both varied and numerous. Hanoi Old Quarter is the most interesting part of town. And it is here that many of the really excellent bars can be found. They set an extremely high standard. It is in Hanoi that Pho, the traditional beef broth eaten everywhere in the country, was created.
The body of the founding father of modern Vietnam tours, Ho Chi Minh, lies in state here. Hanoi is a wonderful base for a North Vietnamese holiday, being the starting off point for both Sapa and Halong Bay tours. Hanoi is a great all year round city, though its climate does make quite a a difference. In the north of Vietnam, which is generally cooler, the best time for weather is between October and April. Winters can become cold occasionally snow will fall in the sub zero temperatures of the mountainous areas.
Hanoi is milder than some northern areas and tends to get hotter and wetter in the season between May and October. Hanoi makes an excellent Christmas location for those wishes to get away from the western cynical approach and freezing temperatures. Temperatures here at this time of year tend to be between 14 and 22 ºC. Despite being a Buddhist country, Christmas is an important time for Hanoi. The streets and shops are completely bedecked with holly and baubles and the true Vietnamese sense of fun comes into play. People pour onto the streets on Christmas Eve in their thousands. All the big hotels are heavily booked for Christmas dinner. [divider]
How to Get There?
By Plane: The Noi Bai International Airport is situated about 20 miles to the north of the city. Quite small by international airport standards, a brand new terminal is currently being built. It is however already a fully functioning International airport with in excess of 20 International carriers operating here. Internal flights are catered for using Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet, who provide flights to most Vietnamese cities. Vietnam Airlines customer service: +84 (0) 20 3263 2062 Vietjet customer service: +84 (0) 1900 1886 By Train: The reunification express runs from Saigon to Hanoi daily. It is a long and slow journey, but one that many consider to be worthwhile, as the views along the way are spectacular. This train also takes in most of the cities along the eastern coast of the country and as such provides a valuable train link from many other cities. There are also train services out to the north-west of Hanoi, including of course Lao Cai,for travellers to Sapa . Always try and book well in advance. Buying your tickets as early as possible, is important as sleeper-tickets often sell out several days in advance. If you are informed that they have sold out, try local travel agents who made have pre-bought tickets. However this comes at a price. For more information on train journeys contact the main train station in Hanoi: +84 4 825 3949 By Bus: Vietnam tours reviews has a pretty good internal bus system in place, though roads are not great and therefore journey times are much greater than you would expect for the distances covered. Many of the “open-tour” bus journeys either begin or end in Hanoi tours. Hué is generally the next (or previous) stop From here to bus travellers can reach Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat, Mui Ne and of course Saigon in the South. Most of these buses will stop at their offices which tend to bet next to the old district or most backpacker hotels. Check when booking ticket and as always behave of scams. [divider]
As with every other city in Vietnam, taxis are generally pretty good as long as you stick with the reputable companies. In the case of Hanoi this means either of the following: Mai Linh Taxi: +84 4 3861 6161 or Hanoi Group Taxi: +84 4 3856 5656. Motor bike taxis are commonly used by many people and whilst some consider them dangerous, they are in fact pretty good. The drivers congregate on most street corners and prices are generally about half that of taxis. Cyclos are a great way of sight seeing and are fun at the same time. However always negotiate a fare in advance as they can prove to be an expensive option.
Things To Do & See
Ho Chi Minh Complex
Ho Chi Minh was a communist revolutionary leader in Vietnam and he was prime minister and president from 1945-1969. He was a very important figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam tours package. His embalmed body is on display in a monumental mausoleum (even though he requested to be cremated) and it is possible to walk through the memorial and see him. Make sure to also check out the Ho Chi Minh Museum next door to learn more about the man and the era.
Hoan Kiem Lake
This picturesque park is located in the centre of town and it is within easy walking distance from the Old Quarter. There you will see many local people relaxing, practicing Tai Chi, walking, and reading. There is a small pagoda and museum here, as well as a bridge that offers lovely views of the lake.
Hoa Lo Prison
Known as the “Hanoi Hilton”, this was a prison built by the French at the turn of the century. It is where many Vietnamese revolutionaries were imprisoned and executed and now it is a museum. The museum shows a fascinating perspective of the struggle of the Vietnamese people against the brutal French colonial regime.
Exploring the Old Quarter
Within the centre of this modern bustling city there an antique quarter, filled with historic architecture representing the atmosphere of another era. Many of the streets here still have their 15th century architecture and some of the areas date back to the 13th century. The streets are spread out and weave together like tree branches, leading you into a labyrinth of street food stalls, coffee shops, tiny boutiques and restaurants. Getting lost in this part of the city is an essential experience while you are in Hanoi
What To Eat
Banh Cuon: Vietnamese Spring Rolls
These delicate spring rolls are eaten everywhere in Vietnam, but originated in and around Hanoi. They have developed into a staple of the North Vietnamese people, who eat them every day in their millions.They are especially enjoyed at breakfast. Some people still make there own rice sheets in the traditional way of pouring a thick rice batter onto a piece of cloth that is suspended over boiling water. However many people now buy the commercially manufactured sheets, ready prepared for rolling. Even the commercially prepared sheets are still made in a very un-mechanized way
Bun Cha: An obsession for the people of Hanoi
Bun Cha is a dish of minced pork patties, grilled over a charcoal fire and served with white rice noodles, herbs and a dipping sauce. The dish originated in Hanoi and is something of an obsession in the Vietnamese capital. The pork patties are placed in a bowl with grilled pork pieces, potato and other ingredients, in a rich sauce before serving. It is extremely popular in the north of Vietnam. In the south, there is a similar dish called Bun Thit Nuong, meaning literally ‘grilled meat on noodles’. The southern variety does not include the cha (patties).
Bia Hoi: Probably the cheapest lager in the world
If there is a cheaper beer anywhere in the world, it has been kept a secret. Bia Hoi is manufactured in hundreds of micro breweries all over Hanoi. Bia Hoi means fresh beer or morning beer. The name comes from the fact that it is brewed fresh, daily and delivered to outlets who simply serve it until they run out. Then another delivery will arrive the morning after. It arrives in plastic kegs on the back of a motorbike.
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