HOW – Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is the destination for many long haul and short haul carriers, with good connections from Europe. The city can also be reached by train from China as well as by Vietnam’s domestic train service from Ho Chi Minh City.
WHAT Hanoi, located on the banks of the Red River, is a city of contrasts with the 36 narrow bustling streets of the Old Quarter, home to the unique tube houses with several streets still trading the goods after which the street is named, and the wide boulevards of the French Quarter which are lined by elegant restored colonial buildings including the Hanoi Opera House. A fun way to explore the Old Quarter is by cyclo.
The city has very many temples but those of particular interest are the Temple of Literature (1070), Vietnam’s first university, Tran Quoc temple by the West Lake and the One Pillar Pagoda. There are many lakes in Hanoi, giving the city an open, spacious feel.
A highlight is a visit to the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh followed by a tour of his stilt house and garden. Nearby is the Ho Chi Minh Museum housing many artefacts from his life. Visitors interested in the ethnic minority groups should visit the Museum of Ethnology.
Full day excursions can be made to the Perfume Pagoda (60km southwest), the ancient traditional village Duong Lam and Tam Coc (inland Halong Bay), both of which include a trip on a boat. An interesting half day excursion is to the pottery village at Bat Trang.
An absolute must is to see a performance of the traditional water puppets.
WHEN The north of Vietnam has four seasons – hot and rainy in the summer, pleasant in the autumn, cool and sometimes drizzly in the winter and getting warmer in the spring.