Hanoi is a city vying to keep up with so many 21st Century advances, yet still celebrating its cultural heritage. Smaller, calmer, and more refined than Ho Chi Minh City, on your trip to Hanoi you will experience the real Vietnam.
It is said that people love or hate Vietnam. This may be true, but to say you “love Vietnam” is like saying you “love food” – when there is such a dazzling array of choices, it is impossible to categorise them all in a positive or, indeed, negative way. There is no doubt that Hanoi’s southern counterpart, Ho Chi Minh City, is an assault to the senses, and it is true that people tend to love its vibrant atmosphere, or be overawed by it. Not so, Hanoi. Vietnam’s capital city,is over 1,000 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, both literally and metaphorically. Situated on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is a true window into the country’s soul. If you haven’t yet fallen in love with Vietnam, it is because you haven’t visited Hanoi.
Direct flights to Vietnam will bring you to Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), Vietnam’s largest airport, less than 30 miles from the city centre.
Hanoi’s climate can be deceptive; situated in the north of Vietnam, the city is in the Northern Hemisphere, therefore experiences four distinct seasons. Winter temperatures can be distinctly chilly, ranging from 10 - 20°C, while autumn and spring temperatures hover in the twenties. Come the summer months (and rainy season) of June – August, Hanoi’s temperatures reach the thirties, occasionally peaking 40°C. For cheap flights to Hanoi, look for deals in the shoulder months, when there are fewer tourists and temperatures are more conducive to exploring the delights of the city and beyond.
Vietnam has had a troubled past, and on your trip to Hanoi it can be valuable to take the time to understand the country’s trials in order to fully appreciate the monumental strides its people have taken to get to the present. At the Hoa Lo Prison Museum you can tour the remains of the prison, known by US Prisoners of the American War as the “Hanoi Hilton”. Here, you will learn about the Vietnamese fight for independence from France, as well as the prison’s use during the American War. The huge complex was constructed by the French in 1896 and designed to house 450 inmates. However, records show that, in the 1930s, almost 2,000 prisoners were incarcerated there by the French. One of the most famous monuments of Hanoi is Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, built to honour the memory of President Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s hero. The shrine is situated on Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh delivered Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence in 1945. Beneath the massive marble structure, the body of Ho Chi Minh resides in a glass sarcophagus, still serving as a source of strength and inspiration to his former people. While it is free to visit the mausoleum, you will be required to dress respectfully, and have shoulders and knees covered. Bags must be handed in on entry and photos are strictly forbidden. If you are planning your trip to Hanoi in September – November, check first to see if the mausoleum is open, as during those months the body is usually shipped abroad for “maintenance”.
Like its people, Hanoi’s architecture exudes a vibe that is fiercely proud of its heritage while striding boldly toward a brighter future. A great way to become acquainted with this incredible city is with a bird’s eye view; and there is no better view than the one from the observation deck at the Lotte Building. Opened in 2014 in the Ba Dinh district, the building’s 65th floor observation deck affords unrivalled views of the city. Only from this vantage point can you fully understand the scale of the Old Quarter in comparison to the city’s incredible growth. A trip to the Ancient Quarter offers a fantastic insight into traditional Vietnamese shopping. Almost 40 narrow streets are packed with vendors and hawkers. In true Vietnamese style, many of the streets sell just one product: rows and rows of seemingly identical shops selling only religious icons, electronics, shoes or silks. Situated on P NhaTho, you will find St Joseph’s Cathedral, a neo-gothic structure built in 1886, in the heyday of the French occupation. The elaborate structure starkly contrasts with the host of temples and humbler traditional buildings typical of Vietnam, however over the years, it has become a part of the scenery, accepted for posterity rather than resented for what it represents.
Of course, on your trip to Hanoi, you will find temples galore! Before you leave the Old Quarter, head to the Bach Ma Temple, rumoured to be the oldest in Hanoi. In the 11th Century, the Emperor Ly Thai To was led to the site by a white horse. It was here that the Emperor chose to build his city walls, and to build a temple honouring the horse. Whether you are an avid reader or not, consider visiting the Temple of Literature, built in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong and dedicated to Confucius. Honouring literary excellence, the temple is an exquisite, untainted example of traditional Vietnamese architecture, its carvings, icons and inscriptions simply awe-inspiring. The Hai Ba Trung Temple was founded in 1142, and bears a statue of the Trung sisters. The two Trung sisters ruled Vietnam in the 1st Century AD, during the war with China. They are rumoured to have drowned themselves on defeat, rather than surrender to the Chinese. Some say that the immortalised sisters appear to be talking to their subjects, while others believe that they are depicted poised to jump to their death.
Vietnamese food is known for its clean flavours – limited complexity (and nowhere to hide), just delicious ingredients simply prepared and spiced, and cooked to perfection. When it comes to South-East Asian food, Hanoi offers the best of all worlds, and the best way to explore the city is to eat your way around it! Street vendors on every corner make this approach to sightseeing easier than ever, with crisp spring rolls and Pho- moreish noodle soups- available, quite literally, on every corner. If it is your first trip to Hanoi and you feel a little daunted by the choices, you can arrange a food tour, where a practised guide will walk you through the Old Town and beyond, sampling the many authentic delights of the city. You may think that you love or hate Vietnam, but one thing is for sure: when you encounter the warm heart, vibrant soul and unbeatable courage of Hanoi, you will fall truly, irreversibly, in love. If you want to discover this incredible city, Travangelo can help you to find cheap flights to Hanoi.