WHAT TO DO:
The old quarter is the place where you will spend most of your time. This is where you live, eat, shop and go out at night. The old quarter dates back to the ancient cities first forming Hanoi and a lot of it its quirkiness is found its history. Each road is dedicated to a certain craft – toys, clothing, sunglasses, jewellery, material, art, to name a few and on the edge of the streets are street taverns where one can eat and enjoy a beer. A great spot to enjoy is beer corner, a small narrow streets filled with Bia Hoi, mentioned below.
Hoan Kim Lake and the Red Bridge:
Hoan Kim Lake is located right on the border of the old quarter, it’s a small lake which one can walk around in 40 minutes. This lake is a very important lake to the Vietnamese people as it a symbol of a the great folk tale “ Lake of the restored sword”. Give the tale a google for more details.
St Joseph’s Cathedral:
This cathedral is a neo-Gothic cathedral and was built in 1988 in Nha Tho Street. This is the one of the last remaining French cathedrals in Hanoi and has a beautiful façade and ornate stain glass windows typical of the neo-Gothic design.
A traditional form of Vietnamese entertainment is a show whereby large puppets dance on water. This form of entertainment developed in the Red River delta and the short snippets of rural Vietnamese life are “acted” out by the puppets. The puppets are constantly having to be re-made and looked after as they last for a short period of time – being that they are made from wood and are constantly in the water. The puppets are accompanied by a traditional Vietnamese band as well as singing.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex:
The complex is found 2km from West Lake and has a number of sites tourists can enjoy in a day. The first and most important is Hi Chi Minh’s Mausoleum where one can visit the body and pay respect to ‘Uncle Ho’, his body is embalmed and displayed in a glass sarcophagus in a temperature controlled room with four guards protecting the body. Dress appropriately – ladies cover your knees and shoulders and do make sure you get there in the set time frames as his body is only displayed between 08:00 – 11:00 Tues – Fri, did I mention its free.
Please also note that the body goes to Russia for two months each year to get re-set along side Lennin.
The gardens surrounding the complex are beautiful and for info on Ho Chi Minh’s life you can visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
Whilst you are in the gardens give the One Pillar Pagoda a visit – here you can pay homage to Buddha. The pagoda is found in the centre of a deep pond and rests on pillar. It takes on the shape of lotus blossom (a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment).
The Presidential Palace is found next door to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex and is a stop one can make for photo’s.
Tran Quac Pagoda:
The Tran Quac Pagoda is found on a small island just off West Lake. The Pagoda dates back to the sixth century and is a place of prayer and enlightenment where the people of Hanoi pray to Buddha. The pagoda is surrounded by ancient bonsai’s and shrines are found near by for offerings.