Hanoi Travel Information
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About Hanoi City || History || Geography || Climate || Transportation || Tourism || Map of Hanoi

ABOUT HANOI CITY

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HANOI INFORMATION
Hanoi, estimated population 3,398,889 (2007), it is the capital of Vietnam. From 1010 until 1802, it was the political centre of an independent Vietnam with a few brief interruptions. It was eclipsed by Hue during the Nguyen Dynasty as the capital of Vietnam, but served as the capital of French Indochina from 1887 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, it was the capital of North Vietnam. The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is located at 21°2'N105°51'E 1760 km (1094 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City.

On May 29 2008, it was decided that Ha Tay province, Vinh Phuc's Me Linh district and 3 communes of Luong Son district, Hoa Binh is merged into the metropolitan area of Hanoi from August 1 2008.

Hanoi Introduction
Hanoi is the vibrant capital city of Vietnam as well as the most aesthetically-pleasing cities largely due to its location on the banks of the Red River. The ancient city is a home of numerous interesting cultural sites including over 600 oriental pagodas and temples that each has their own unique story and place in history. Hanoi has some truly amazing country sides with peaceful lakes, verdant rice paddies and quaint Vietnamese villages. Ngoc Son Temple is situated on Island of Hoan Kiem Lake and is widely considered as the most beautiful lake in the city. Exploring this magnificent temple is a great way to learn about traditional Vietnamese history. One of the ‘must-see’ attractions is Halong Bay, designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here, visitors can see the crystalline emerald green water and explore the dramatic limestone islets and hidden lagoons. Hanoi has a wide selection of accommodation on offer as well as a plethora of top restaurants, cafes and bars.  

hanoiThe capital of Vietnam sits in the country’s northern region in a scenic setting on the right bank of the Red River. First-timers to the city may find it a bustling destination, but the constant hustle is in fact part of Hanoi’s inherent charm. Throw a rich selection of aesthetic and cultural sights and a steadily growing visitor infrastructure into the mix, and it’s not difficult to see how Hanoi has become one of Southeast Asia’s most popular tourist destinations.

Visual evidence of the city’s fascinating past abounds, with architecture telling stories of French occupation and many older structures giving an insight into pre-colonial times. Temples and religious sites tell of the city’s devotion to Buddhist beliefs, while some fascinating museums give insight into Vietnamese culture.

Among the city’s most interesting sights, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum arguably takes the top spot. No trip to Hanoi is complete without a visit to this sombre but nonetheless fascinating attraction which illustrates the esteem and affection the Vietnamese people have for this historic figure. A visit to the nearby museum dedicated to Ho Chi Minh is also an essential experience.

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a charming, character-rich area which for many visitors captures Hanoian life at its most authentic. Classic old buildings, market stalls, traditional businesses and busy restaurants line the seemingly endless interconnected streets that make up this unique part of the city. Hours can be whiled away wandering the maze of alleys, sipping coffee in quaint little cafés or enjoying fantastic food at any number of great dining venues.

The tourist infrastructure in Hanoi ensures that there are plenty of accommodation options with establishments to suit all tastes and budgets. The Old Quarter is largely made up of budget to mid-range hotels, while reputable international names such as Sofitel, Sheraton and Hilton offer upmarket luxury accommodation at the southern end of Hoan Kiem Lake.

The city is easily reached having its own international airport that maintains connections with a large number of major Asian cities as well as a reasonable selection of international destinations. Alternatively, visitors already in the country can take advantage of the bus and train networks which stretch from Ho Chi Minh City in the south all the way to Hanoi, covering a variety of destinations in between.

With a wealth of history and cultural heritage, good transportation and accommodation options, excellent dining opportunities and a vast selection of attractions, activities and daytrip options, Hanoi is the ideal destination for a weekend trip or longer vacation.

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History

Physical evidence exists to suggest that the earliest inhabitants of Vietnam settled here as far back as half a million years ago, with significant settlements appearing in what is now Hanoi some 10,000 years ago. The arrival of the Han Chinese in 214 BC marked the beginning of civilisation in the area, with the establishment of a military post here bringing development to the greater area.

the_chineseThe Chinese exercised considerable control over local tribal inhabitants for a number of centuries using brute force as a means of ruling, and gaining themselves reputations as oppressors. By 938 AD, however, the locals had organised themselves under the leadership of Ngo Quyen and prepared to rebel. An autonomous Vietnamese state was subsequently created, although it fell into anarchy following Ngo Quyen’s death.

Hanoi found order again in the four centuries that followed and successfully become the political seat of the country. With this new-found importance, the city began embellishing its appearance with grand architecture, erecting important buildings such as the Grand Royal enclosure and the Temple of Literature, as well as Vietnam’s first university. Developments didn’t go unnoticed by outsiders, and Hanoi became an attractive target for the Chinese, Khmer and Kublai Khan.

At the beginning of the 15th century, the city fell to the Chinese again, but on this occasion their control was short-lived. The locals vehemently defended their territory under the leadership of warrior Lê Lợi. Under Lê Lợi, the Chinese were rapidly ousted and Vietnamese independence was reestablished.

French troops arrived in 1864, adding Hanoi to the list of Vietnamese cities already under their control. Local resistance was futile against the might of the French army and consequently Hanoi’s citizens resigned themselves to French control for close to a century. The French were eventually forced out following a serious of battles with the Viet Minh.

warDuring WWII, Hanoi, like many destinations in Indochina, fell to the Japanese. Japanese occupation began in 1940 and it wasn’t until 1945 that they were successfully removed by the Viet Minh with the assistance of the United States who donated arms and money to the war effort.

the_vietnam_warThe Vietnam War lasted from 1965 to 1975, during which time Hanoi managed to sustain very little in the way of damage owing to the fact that the conflict was concentrated mainly in the south of the country. When the north and south were reunited after the war, Ho Chi Minh City was demoted as the country’s capital and the title subsequently bestowed upon Hanoi.

 

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Geography

Hanoi is located in the Red River Delta, in the center of North Vietnam. It is encompassed by Thai Nguyen Province to the north, Vinh Phuc and Ha Tay to the west and south, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh and Hung Yen provinces to the east and south-east.Hanoi means "the hinterland between the rivers" (Ha: river, Noi: interior). Hanoi's territory is washed by the Red River (the portion of the Red River embracing Hanoi is approximately 40km long) and its tributaries, but there are some other rivers flowing through the capital, including Duong, Cau, Ca Lo, Day, Nhue, Tich, To Lich and Kim Nguu.

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Climate

Weather Hanoi’s climate is typical of the region, experiencing three distinct seasons; a cool season, a hot season and a rainy season. The cool season begins in early October and lasts until the end of March, after which things start to hot up and temperatures hover between the low 30s (°C) to 35°C. The hot season peaks in May but lasts until June, with humidity being high throughout the period.

The rainy season which follows sees a drop in temperature to the mid to upper 20s (°C). Precipitation is heavy throughout this season with volumes of 30cms per month not uncommon. While intermittent dry spells are frequent, they are characterised by high levels of humidity.

From a visitor perspective, Hanoi’s winter or cool season is the best time to take a holiday in the city. Daytime temperatures are warm but not excessively hot and the chances of rain are slim. In theory, a trip to Hanoi can be made at any time of the year, however, outside of the cool season visitors need to be prepared for high temperatures or rainfall.

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Transportation

Airports

airportHanoi Noi Bai International Airport is the chief gateway to the city and the north of Vietnam, and is a modern aviation facility situated 22 miles from the centre of Hanoi. As the newest of the country’s international airports, Noi Bai is relatively well equipped with facilities for passengers, offering ATMs, currency exchange services and dining and shopping outlets.

The airport receives flights mainly from destinations in Asia with regular connections maintained with major cities such as Bangkok, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, Osaka and Siem Reap. There are also flights to Moscow and Vladivostok by Aeroflot and Vladivostok Air respectively. National carrier Vietnam Airlines operates flights to and from international destinations such as Frankfurt, Paris, Melbourne and Sydney.

Passengers requiring ground transportation to the city can make use of bus services with numbers 07 and 17 running from outside the Arrivals area direct to the centre of Hanoi. The journey takes about an hour and is the cheapest transfer option.

taxisTaxis are also available and provided you take an official airport service, the charge is fixed. An airport minibus also operates from directly in front of the terminal but leaves only when full, so passengers on tight schedules might want to avoid this option. Passengers arriving with Vietnam Airlines can take advantage of a free minibus to the city.

Public Transport

If you are already in Vietnam and wish to reach Hanoi by ground transportation, there are a number of options available. Buses starting at Ho Chi Minh City travel north to Hanoi making various stops en route. The journey is lengthy and overnight stops are necessary. Travelling by train from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi can take up to three days.

Once in the city, visitors can choose between a number of different transportation options. Motorcycle taxis are everywhere and prices are generally cheap, but safety can be a concern. A slower but more interesting alternative is to travel by cyclo, a pedal-powered vehicle in which the driver sits behind the passenger(s).

Public buses run to various parts of the city but few staff speak any English and bus stop signs are invariably in Vietnamese only, making it difficult for visitors to negotiate services. Tourist buses organised through travel agents are a more suitable option for tourists.

Regular taxis are also common but are generally only economical if shared with other passengers. Make sure that your driver uses the cab’s meter and decline their services if they object to switch the meter on.

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Tourism

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Top Things to See
If you are hoping that a holiday in Hanoi will provide some good photo album material, then you will not be disappointed as the city is a sightseer’s dream. From architecture hailing from the city’s period of French occupation to the myriad of delights tucked away in the Old Quarter, this is a city with an endless supply of visual treats and opportunities for exploring.

Hanoi Opera House
Situated on Le Thanh Tong street close to the Red River, the Hanoi Opera House is a magnificent colonial French building constructed in 1911. The splendid Art Nouveau architecture is in stark contrast to the typically Vietnamese buildings in the surrounding area, adding to its visual impact. From the building’s main balcony, the Viet Minh announced their triumphant recapture of the city on 16 August 1945. There are no tours available of the interior of the Opera House and visitors wanting to sneak a peek are obliged to attend one of the performances.

Ho Chi Minh MausoleumHo Chi Minh Mausoleum
No visit to Hanoi is complete without visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the last resting place of Uncle Ho, the nation’s best-loved historic political figure. The mausoleum is a large stately building that can be entered by both domestic and foreign visitors provided due reverence is observed. Entrants are obliged to leave bags at a checkpoint before solemnly entering the chamber where the embalmed body of the great leader is displayed.

Hai Ba Trung Temple
Otherwise known as Dong Nhan Temple due to its location in Dong Nhan village, this ancient structure dates back to the 12th century and was erected during the reign of King Ly Anh Tong. The temple was built in honour of Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, two Vietnamese heroines and was completed by 1142. Clay statues of Trung Trac and Trung Nhi and their army of 12 female generals can be found in the temple’s inner sanctum. The temple is the setting of a lively festival early on in the second month of the lunar calendar.

Ho Chi Minh MuseumHo Chi Minh Museum
After viewing Ho Chi Minh’s body at the mausoleum, continue learning about Vietnam’s favourite ‘uncle’ at this museum dedicated to his life and achievements. The museum has several storeys, with each offering insight into a different aspect of Ho Chi Minh’s life and its relevance to Vietnamese history. There are original photographs of Uncle Ho on display, as well as manifestos and poems handwritten by him.

Presidential Palace
Situated adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace is a lavishly designed structure that dates back to 1906 when it was built to serve as the official residence of the Governor General of French Indochina. The palace, which illustrates distinct characteristics of French colonial architecture, was home to a number of generals of Indochina before becoming the official residence of the President of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh used the building in the latter period of his life for official government functions and the entertaining of guests. Visitors are not permitted entry to the building but may wander its grounds and take photos of its grand exterior.

Ngoc Son TempleNgoc Son Temple
Since this traditional Buddhist temple is located in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, which is in itself the focal point of the city, it’s unlikely that you will miss the chance to visit what is acknowledged as Hanoi’s most photographed landmark. Dating back to the 18th century, the temple is dedicated to three important historic characters: Tran Hung Dao, Van Xuong and La To. The walls of the causeway which leads to the lake are adorned with traditional Vietnamese writings.

Tay Ho Pagoda
Located in an idyllic setting on the peninsula jutting out into the city’s West Lake, Tay Ho Pagoda is among the most beautiful structures of its kind in the city. It’s also one of the most commonly frequented in light of it being dedicated to Thanh Mau, the mother Goddess, for whom the locals come to make offerings on the first and 15th day of each lunar month. There’s a local legend telling of Thanh Mau’s appearance on the lake in the 17th century, which was the inspiration for the building of the pagoda.

Old QuarterOld Quarter
The Old Quarter is full of character and a popular place for visitors to stay. A labyrinth of roads plays home to all manner of sights from the traditional and charming to the unusual. Shops, market stalls, old-fashioned service providers, cafés and guesthouses are just some of the many businesses in the area providing visitors with endless opportunities to explore and experience new sights, sounds, tastes and smells.

Top Things to Do

Get a roadside haircut. You might want to try the unique experience of getting a touch of personal grooming from one of Hanoi’s roadside barber operations. With set-ups along the city’s sidewalks, these guys will give you a haircut using old-school methods or a traditional cut-throat razorblade shave while passers-by come and go, birds twitter in the trees above and cars and motorbikes zoom past.

Get yourself a blast of Hanoian caffeine. Hanoi is chock-full of cafés where the locals like to while away the hours drinking cup after cup of delectable Vietnamese-style coffee. The coffee itself is dark, chocolaty and caffeine-rich, and is served with lashings of sweetened condensed milk.

hanoi-halong-bayHave your breath taken away by Halong Bay. Whether you visit Halong Bay in a single day (six hours from Hanoi) or take one of the many overnight tours that are available, you will not regret visiting this stunning part of the country. Approximately 1,600 islands and islets are scattered across stunning jade green waters providing breathtaking views which visitors can appreciate from the comfort of an authentic junk boat.

Take a tour with the HanoiKids. HanoiKids are a group of students who provide tours of the city in a bid to get valuable English-speaking practice, as well as getting the opportunity to show off their city. Tours are free and visitors and allow visitors to gain a resident’s perspective of Hanoi.

Tantalise your taste buds with a bowl of tasty pho. Hanoi’s variation on the popular Vietnamese noodle soup dish is so good that locals sometimes eat it three times a day. There are noodle stands available at roadside locations across the city, or you can stop and sit down at a dedicated noodle restaurant and enjoy the hot broth, sumptuous beef and soft rice noodles that make up this traditional dish.

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Map of Hanoi

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