Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Getting lost in Hanoi, Vietnam

October 31, 2010
By Judy McEuen
Travel Writer - Troy Media

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost amidst the Hanoi’s bustling streets and the countless mopeds and bicycles moving around.

But don’t get discouraged, even if you want to immediately hop on the nearest van and set off to the more tranquil and eerily beautiful Halong Bay. While not at first glance obvious, Hanoi has several attractions that are worth seeing and its charm will grow on you if you give it a chance. So, rather than escape the hubbub straight away, don’t be afraid to get lost in the city for a while: I guarantee you will enjoy what it has to offer.

Rich cultural heritage
Its modern developments may be completely devoid of beauty and allure but the charm of Hanoi’s rich cultural and historical heritage more than make up for it.

Check out the city’s Old Quarter and experience what it was like to live in the 13th century in this part of the world. Its narrow and winding roads were not simply ordinary thoroughfares; they are also representative of the social status of its residents. Merchants were grouped with merchants, carpenters with their fellow carpenters and sculptors with the other sculptors. Check out the street names and you will have a pretty good idea of the guild it was specially designated for.

Walk around the compact area and you will discover wonderful enclosed markets and ancient structures which now house charming cafes, boutiques and shops. Take a moment to notice how the shops are very narrow at the entrance but seem to go on and on in length. That is how merchants tried to escape taxes. But these shops are not just for show now: there is actually plenty of interesting and lovely merchandise for sale, from intricately designed jewellery to exquisite silk textiles to superb handicrafts among others.

Visit Ho Chi Minh
Walking south from the Old Quarter you will soon discover the laid-back calm of Hoan Kiem Lake which is right at the nucleus of the city centre. This is a perfect place to get your bearing while you enjoy the picturesque view of the placid waters and lakeside atmosphere.

For a bit of history, visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. His remains are encased in glass and are open to the public. Note that he is an esteemed and beloved hero so expect rigid security measures and a non-negotiable dress code. If you don’t care for mausoleums, you can just visit the nearby Ho Chi Min Museum.

Another popular attraction in Hanoi is the One Pillar Pagoda in the Ba Dinh District. It was built in honour of Emperor Ly Thai Tong. The pagoda is artistically built to resemble the shape of a lotus flower. Also a major historical and religious landmark in the city is the Temple of Literature. It has served disciples of Confucius for centuries and still continues to be a major pilgrimage site for believers. It dates back to the 11th century but it has retained its grandeur and splendour to this day.

The major attractions of Halong Bay, Sa Pa and Bac Ha are just hours away from Hanoi. So, you can easily be on your way after your short tour of the city


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