Besides the breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Hanoi is also a must-visit when in Vietnam. Enjoy a slow-paced holiday in the city “within the river,” where French colonial buildings sit side-by-side with Asian temples and pagodas.
Start at the Hoan Kiem Lake, where willow trees give a sense of peace. Nearby are Indira Gandhi Park and Ngoc Son Temple, which houses the remains of a giant turtle that was caught in the lake. Lenin Park, or the Park of Reunification, has an amusement park. Boats are available for rent.
Walk along the path where the most brilliant Vietnamese scholars once trod. Van Mieu, or the Temple of Literature, was built in honour of Confucius and his disciples. It was where students from all over the country took an exam lasting 35 days in order to become Tien Si or doctor laureate. These exams were so difficult that one year, just 8 out of 3,000 candidates passed.
Museums abound in Hanoi. The Ho Chi Minh Museum gives a peek into the life of the leader of the Viet Minh independence movement. The story continues in the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution and the Museum of Independence, where Ho Chi Minh supposedly wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Take a food tour along the streets and in the markets to round up your Vietnam holiday. Green papaya salads, spring rolls with cat fish, chilli-sprinkled fruits, cassava-noodle soups with eel, and young bamboo shoots dipped in sauce are just some of the delectable surprises. Savour the sweetness of Vietnamese coffee, or dare to try some of the local soups made from exotic ingredients.
Set aside a day for exploring the handicraft villages on your Vietnam holiday. Bat Trang is devoted to ceramics, Van Phuc to silk, and Dong Ky to woodcarving and furniture adorned with mother of pearl.