Visiting Hanoi Vietnam: A Visual Tour through the City
Charm and Folklore in the Streets of Hanoi Vietnam
Busy Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi: Atmosphere, Culture and Interesting Facts
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, has a unique harmonious blend of old Vietnamese traditions with modern French style; a contradictory place where modern meets very ancient qualities of Asian lifestyle.
Hanoi is a very chaotic city, yet it maintains an elegant and graceful element. It has been growing around the historic old quarter in a positive way, conserving a friendly link with the existing architecture of old times; there is no ugly contrast, on the contrary, the buildings that are considered to be true relics are highlighted and well preserved across town.
The big population of Hanoi is immediately visible in the crowdedness of its streets, which are packed with bicycles, assembled bike-carets, tuk tuks, motorbikes, motorcycles, cars and pedestrians. It is absolute transit craziness!!! If there is one life saving tip I can give you is “Watch out!!!” The different kinds of vehicles come from everywhere with total disregard for civilized rules. It is quite funny really, but you do have to be careful to avoid crashing against any sort of moving object.
If you actually dare to drive a bike through the jungle-like streets of Hanoi, it is a good way to explore some of the sites that are somewhat far away from downtown: the Temple of Literature, the Ethnology Museum or the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex (Mausoleum, Museum, Pagoda and Presidential Palace).
Hanoi's Ethnology MuseumClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hanoi's Friendly Face
Citizens of Hanoi
Vietnamese city dwellers are very open and extrovert. You will find many kind, cheerful individuals; nevertheless, some of them can sometimes be a bit aggressive in their approach.
Vietnamese –who have suffered communism-, are hungry for progression and quite ambitious. As a tourist, you are actually regarded as a gold mine by some traders and people involved in the hospitality business. Shop around and compare to avoid paying for overpriced goods or services, watch out for supposedly well intended advisors that are under commissions and work for a specific hotel or company. Be aware of the fact that there are many Vietnamese that will try to scam you. This doesn’t directly mean that everyone is an unscrupulous citizen, it just means you need to be conscious of the negative side to this travel destination.
Southeast Asia Map
Vietnam Travel Guides
Hanoi has a massive variety of food choices. The old quarter is full of all kinds of Vietnamese restaurants, sidewalk eateries and street food vendors.
Within the restaurant category, there are some interesting international cuisine choices, including some chic avant-garde restaurants with mouth watering menus. I know this will come across as a very western recommendation but Tamarind Cafe (80 P Ma May) is one of this modern chic cafés with style that offers fusion vegetarian cuisine in very clever, well presented dishes. It really is a good choice and was one of my best meals.
In what Vietnamese food is concerned, I don’t have any specific advocacies. Most of them don’t even have identifiable names. Almost every place is going to be nice, Vietnamese food is packed with flavor. Just walk around and observe which one is full of Vietnamese locals, that would be the one to go to. Some Vietnamese restaurants have long tables that you can share with fellow dinners; those are a good option to have a look at what Vietnamese actually eat and order accordingly.
Ngoc Son Temple in HanoiClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake stands at the center of the Old Quarter and it represent a beautiful open space to walk around and enjoy some quiet time at sunset (they are quite beautiful to see from one of the benches in the green area surrounding the lake). In middle of the lake stand two interesting sites:
(1) a rock tower called Thap Rua or Tortoise Tower, that represents one of the landmarks of the city, and is just a sculpture you can appreciate from afar;
(2) Ngoc Son Temple, a religious building you can actually visit. While walking around this temple, you can hardly believe you are literally still immersed in the chaotic furry of random moving objects and noisy claxons of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Ngoc Son is a tinny beautiful temple in which the attention to detail and regard for aesthetics is ever present. The gates to the temples, the doors, the altar, the sculptures, the flowers, the pots and plants, everything has its unique Vietnamese delicacy and beauty. Red is the dominant color in this temple and beautiful pink flowered branches adorn the altar. I reckon there is not much to add to my personal description of this place. Just go ahead and take a look at the photographs that speak for themselves.
Water Puppetry Performance
Just in front of Hoan Kiem Lake is the Municipal Water Puppet Theater which offers performances in the evenings. This is a traditional form of art in Vietnam and it is definitely one of the things you shouldn’t leave Hanoi without witnessing.
The puppets they use are more like a stiff wooden doll, fixed to a long horizontal stick that remains unseen, underneath the water. The puppeteer handles the puppet literally inside the water (which is the stage); not fully submerged but with water up to his hips and hidden behind a Vietnamese-style scenery.
The puppets move to the tune of live music, which is played by an elegantly attired orchestra composed of oriental music instruments. It is very unique and entertaining to see.