Birthday city Hanoi bears surprising gifts

Founded 1000 years ago this October, Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi is in party mood as it celebrates its millenium birthday.

But it’s not only the celebratory plethora of colourful flower displays and organized festivities that dispel the image of the grim, poverty- stricken town of 30 years back. Cited by the New York Times as a sophisticated metropolis offering sensational cuisine, glitzy malls and world-class art, it’s central to one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

But if you feel it’s a long way to go for just ‘more of the same’, never fear. The buzzing modern city remains imbued with past culture so there are plenty of Confucian monuments and sacred relics to visit.

The Temple of Literature at Quoc Tu Giam and Van Mieu Streets, is a stunning series of temples with a fascinating history built in honour of Confucious, while at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street), marionettes enact 1000year-old stories to music played with traditional instruments.

Must-see places for art lovers include the central Mai Gallery (113 Hang Bong Street) and the Art Vietnam Gallery (7 Nguyen Khac Nhu Street).

Add to this the exotic features of daily life such as nocturnal markets, the chance to purchase finely embroidered silk and street stall eateries in the old quarter where you can grab a stuffed rice crepe or crispy crab spring roll, and you have plenty of reasons to join the party.

Direct flights from London.

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