Hanoi Travel Guide
Date posted: 10/07/2017 - 1887 views
It was after this period, in 1946, that the French returned and reoccupied Hanoi. Even now, the city has certain European romance which can be seen in the grand French architecture, relics of the colonies that once ruled here. The impressive villas in the traditional French style still sit proudly on the tree-lined streets, the passage of time beginning to show in the faded paintwork. Having overthrown the imposed French rule in the 1950s, the faint perfume of France still prevails in not only the architecture but also the literature, arts and the cuisine. 

Hanoi once again became independent in 1954 but the peace was short-lived as the war with America started shortly after in 1955 and lasted until 1975. The loss and damage done to Hanoi were inconsolable but the resilient, ambitious and creative people of Vietnam worked tirelessly to rebuild their city. Although the scars of the wars that were once fought here are still visible, Hanoi has undergone rapid development over past decades with the incredible transformation happening within most of the population’s lifetimes.

The city is now a diverse and dynamic unification of tradition and progressive 21st-century thinking. Throngs of motorbikes swarm around the tranquil lakes and past the temples. The impressive French colonial buildings mix with the tall narrow Vietnamese houses in the tangle of buildings in the Old Quarter. The dizzying skyscrapers tower over the tiny plastic chairs scattered at the roadside in the fast developing outskirts of town. 

In one sense the dichotomy appears to divide the generations but as you look around, it is clear to see that it is the union of these characteristics that
sets Hanoi apart from any other city. 

See and do

The city awakes at sunrise when the local people flock to the edge of Hoan Kiem Lake to greet the new day with some gentle taichi. From this point on the momentum builds until the whole area becomes absorbed in the whirlwind of daily life. Motorbikes swarming around the lake, people zig-zagging from markets stalls to cafes. Vendors pedalling their wares from the backs of their bicycles. From sunrise until sunset the only stillness is the immense Loc Vung trees that guard the edge of the lake and protect the people from the powerful sun. 

A short walk from the splendid lake is the enchanting Old Quarter, the heart of Hanoian culture. Here every winding road and hair’s breadth alley leads to a new discovery. The skilled merchants selling their wares, perform the to and fro of bargaining, all accompanied by the live orchestra of beeping horns, daily chatter and birdsong. The eclectic buildings all stacked on top of each other are overwhelmed with the life spilling out of them; wild green foliage dripping from the bricks and people cascading out into the busy streets. 

Food and Drink

One of the main attractions of Hanoi has to be its diverse offerings when it comes to food and drink. Everywhere you look you are greeted by the sights and smells of delicious local produce. From the ladies laden with their baskets of fresh fruit and cakes to the street meat vendors filling the air with mouth-watering scents, you certainly won’t be hungry in Hanoi! 

Bun Cha
 is just one of the many dishes that are cherished by Hanoians. Comprising of mountains of vermicelli noodles, topped with a forest of fresh herbs and served with strips of pork and pork patties. The thing that really makes this dish special is the sweet and sour fish-based broth that will uncover a whole new palette of tastes. 

Another staple of Vietnamese cuisine is Pho, there are however subtle differences in the dish depending on where you are in Vietnam. Hanoian Pho, steaming hot and massively appealing, is characterised by a clearer broth compared to its southern counterpart. Best enjoyed at one of the many street-side restaurants, follow your sense of smell and the local customers to find the best bowl.  

Vietnamese coffee is an institution in itself and is served everywhere from the sides of the streets to charming cafés and chic bars. The intense aroma is inescapable, drifting out of the open cafe doors. The ritual of drinking coffee has become a uniquely Vietnamese affair. The coffee itself, grown in Vietnam, is known for its rich, dark
flavour and is dripped slowly through a metal filter called a phin. From here the coffee is served in a variety of ways, the most common being with a good dollop of sweet, viscous condensed milk. Another traditional variation is egg coffee in which coffee and condensed milk are combined with an egg yolk to make a luxuriant dessert style coffee. 

Hanoi takes on a whole new persona at night. As the fairy lights that crisscross the main streets flicker into action, the streets become alive with frivolity. The most famous spots to enjoy the fun are Bia Corner on Ma May and Ta Hien Street. Here you can drink the local Bia Hoi, freshly brewed, light, and cheap. It’s easy to spend the night sipping on cup after cup. The plastic seats of the bars flow out into the road, leaving only narrow paths for the motorbikes to navigate. As the ante picks up, the murmur of voices erupts into an excited explosion. As well as the intoxicating buzz of the Bia Hoi, Hanoi has many bars offering live music of all varieties, especially at the weekend when the main town is closed off to bikes for the night markets. 

Festivals and Events

Every weekend the streets of the old quarter are cordoned off to the usual influx of motorbikes and a night market is erected, starting opposite Hoan Kiem Lake  and stretching all the way to Dong Xuan Market. The stalls flow down along the street with a whole range of goods for sale at bargain prices.  Away from the crowded walkways of the market street and into the entertainment area surrounding Ma May and Ta Hien live music is performed in the streets, surrounded by crowds of people all enjoying the lively atmosphere. 

One of the most important festivals in Vietnamese culture is Tet Nguyen Dan, often shortened to Tet. This is the beginning of the new lunar year and it is a wonder to see the Vietnamese people everywhere in a flurry of excitement for the upcoming festivities. Held at the end of January or beginning of February, this colourful celebration lasts for three days but can go on for up to a week or more. People enjoy family reunions, feasts of delicious foods and lively social activities. Much like many western cultures, New Year's Eve is the climax of the celebrations when people venture outside to make offerings to the gods in the hope of a prosperous year ahead. 

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