Vietnam’s capital can lay claim to being Indochina’s most charismatic and captivating city. It is a hotchpotch of tangled streets in the Old Quarter. It is a modern 21st Century megapolis in the Western districts. There are French-era colonial relics on tree-lined boulevards, painted in muted hues of mustard and white. It is considered as a great place in which to live, due to it being one of Asia’s greenest cities with an abundance of parks and lakes. It has a vibrant café and gallery focussedcultured lifestyle.
Hanoi is a city of rich history and the source of much of Vietnam’s literature, music and poetry. Emperor Ly Thai To founded the city in 1010 and very soon after this some of the city’s oldest remaining structures were built, including ‘One Pillar Pagoda’ and the ‘Temple of Literature’ – one of the oldest universities in the world. From 1902 the city served as the capital of French Indochina and many of the old boulevards and residences from this period have survived, many used today to house Government institutions and Foreign Embassies. In 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed in his independence speech that Hanoi would henceforth be the capital of Vietnam.
Today, Hanoi is an energetic city of nearly 7 million people and it retains its Old Quarter – a congested square kilometre where the streets are named by what is sold. These 36 Streets were closed behind massive ramparts and heavy wooden gates until well into the 19th-century and Hanoi’s daily life still unfolds on these busy, cramped roads.
Hanoi is home to an impressive food culture. The best approach is to miss breakfast, forget your map and simply bring your camera – then get deliberately lost in the human landscape, eating as you walk.
Few places are as rich in history and character – Hanoi retains a mysterious quality and is diverse enough to hold your interest for at least a couple days of exploration.