Hanoi, Vietnam: Top Places to Visit
Vietnam, the S-shaped country located at the south of China and located beside Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, has a dramatic history and diverse culture that makes it quite an interesting place to visit.
Hanoi, the capital, has a lot of scenic landscapes as well as quaint and amusing practices and traditions. This is a city wherein opposites -- the old and the new, east and west -- merge, giving tourists an extraordinary experience.
Hoan Kiem Lake
Located in the center, this lake would be one of the first things you'd see if you are staying in the Old Quarter. Around this lake are streets that lead to different parts of the Old Quarter. For this reason, it's quite a convenient landmark for travellers.
Around the lake, you can start observing the Vietnamese people's way of life. In the morning, around six or in the evening, you can see them doing exercising -- Either Tai Chi, stretching or some sort of wiggling or grinding. Sitting on one of the benches, you can watch the hawkers, cyclo drivers and the traffic go by -- The traffic itself can be an interesting sight.
On this lake is the Ngoc Son temple, where you'll find a giant, mummified turtle that is associated with the legend of the returned sword used by Ly Thai To to protect his country from the invasion of the Chinese. It's name was taken from this legend -- Hoan is to return and Kiem is sword. The entrance fee for this temple is around 10,000 dong.
Military MuseumClick thumbnail to view full-size
Through the years, Vietnam has gone through a lot of wars and battles -- From the attempts of the Mongols and Chinese, to the French colonization, to the battle between the north and the south. In this museum, you can find items, models and documents that can take you back to Vietnam's chaotic and violent history.
Because of the iconic tower with the red flag, it is easy to spot this museum. At the same time, if you are walking or riding a motorbike or taxi along Dien Bien Phu, it would be impossible to miss the tanks and planes displayed on the museum's courtyard. If you need other landmarks, the museum is opposite Lenin Park and beside Highlands Coffee.
The entrance fee is around 20,000 dong. You might be charged extra for a camera.
Museum of Vietnamese HistoryClick thumbnail to view full-size
In Hanoi's History Museum, one can check out relics and artefacts that can give you an outline of Vietnamese history as well as an overview of the Vietnamese people's way of life from the prehistoric times to the end of the Vietnam War.
Although the artifacts and relics that are presented in the museum are in good condition, they are poorly labelled and most of the texts that describe them are written in Vietnamese. In order to be able to appreciate the walk around the museum better, you should join a guided tour.
The Friends of Vietnam Heritage can provide you with a very detailed overview of Vietnamese history as you move around the museum. They charge around 300,000 an hour for a group -- The walk is around 3 hours. The admission fee is around 20,000 dong per person.
Museum of EthnologyClick thumbnail to view full-size
This museum showcases the way of life and origins of the different ethnological groups in Vietnam. It contains dioramas and videos of their rituals. Models, relics and images of the items that they use in their everyday lives can also be seen in this museum.
Outside the museum are models of houses used by the different ethnological groups. People are allowed to enter these houses in order to have a feel of the way these ethnic groups live.
Bia Hoi CornerClick thumbnail to view full-size
There is nothing like a glass of cold beer to end a day of walking and shopping. And, the best place to have one is in one of the bia hoi corners that are scattered all over Hanoi. It's quite cheap -- A glass is around 3,000 to 4,000 dong.
And, if you feel like meeting new people or having a group to chat with, the best place to go to is the corner at the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen where you'll find a lot of fellow travellers and expats. Better yet, if you're lucky, you might be entertained by fights among Bia Hoi corners -- They are possessive about their chairs and customers so be wary of buying beer in one corner and drinking it in another corner.
The downside of having a drink here is sitting on small stools in a crowded place. And, the area floods after a heavy rain. And, yes, one of the vendors is bound to bother you -- Books? Postcards? Lighters? Boom Boom?
- The National Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi, Vietnam: A Photo Tour
The National Museum Of Vietnamese History has a very extensive collection of artifacts that show you the nation's identity before the war.
- Friends of Vietnam Heritage :: Home
This group provides guided walks around Hanoi.