As Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon stands for the image of future Vietnam, Hanoi, on the other hand, is the epitome of the romantic era of French colonization with intricate designs of the buildings that whisper music of serene and romance. With French architecture and leafy boulevards, the whole city looks very soft and full with fine arts that will stun the artistic mind and definitely the hearts of the lovers. The buildings in the Old Quarter area, for instance, are well preserved to become a house for boutiques or tailor shops, galleries, guesthouses, restaurants and even café.
Hanoi seems less rowdy and more sedate which differs from Ho Chi Minh City, but the hustle bustle of the city is still there even though it is a little less overwhelming. The greenery surrounding of Hanoi city is just a perfect match to the vestiges of French colonial past.
However, Hanoi is a burgeoning city nonetheless and still growing. Populated with 4 million people, Hanoi does not promise quietness of the city. The motors on the street bring sounds that annoy those that in the search of peace and quietness in the heart of the city. However, despite the city’s downsides, Hanoi is mesmerizingly captivating with lakes that spread around the city. Something we have never seen in any Asia countries. The lakes make the neighborhoods nearby them becomes windier and leafier compared to other parts of the city. It is also believed that the presence of the lakes creates breezes that can be felt in various parts of the city.
The thing about Hanoi is that even though it does not boast as many attractions as Ho Chi Minh, therein lies the charm, it is simply an intimate destination for people to visit, with its old world vestiges and green environs.
When you are in Hanoi:
- You will experience hot weather from April to October
- June is rather humid
- You can enjoy temperate weather from November to March
- Visit Old Quarter for those who are looking for local products (near Hoan Kiem Lake)
- At Old Quarter, you can find local boutiques and tailor shops, fabrics and textiles shops, local handicrafts, home-grown home accessories shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, provisionary shops and even counterfeit goods
- Intercontinental Hanoi is recommended to those who look for exclusive stay within the city area
- Be careful with the taxis (choose the better-maintained ones with displayed ID of the driver) if you do not want end up paying double for the fare
- It is wise to have travel agent arranged transportation for you
- Vietnamese would normally have a long break (up to 3hours) for lunch (and nap). This is applied to restaurants and some public institutions.
- Historical house within Old Quarter, original structure of French colonial architecture (entry fee is VND 10,000)
HO CHI MINH PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
You have not been to Hanoi or even Vietnam if do not visit this place. This is a place whereby the infamous humanitarian former President of Vietnam use to live and his body was embalmed here at the Mausoleum. It is a must to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum so as to witness Ho Chi Minh perpetually lying in state. Visitors to this place need to remember to wear decently as a sign of deference, meaning no shorts and tops that reveal the shoulders. At the mausoleum, you will get to see the amazingly embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh that looks incredibly well-preserved even though he passed away almost 20 years ago.
Apart from seeing the embalmed body of him, you will be able to see other things as well in the compound of the palace, for example, a house where he spent 11 years there until his last breath. The house was requested by the people of Vietnam to be built for him to suit his stature as the leader of the nation. Even he refused to do so but the people had spoken and he reluctantly subjected himself to the democracy of the nation yet he specifically requested it to be modest and not over the top, as opposed to other leaders would have done, as to avoid wasting nation’s coffer. He is one in a million to pursue such virtue.
At the Presidential Palace:
- Advisable to wear a hat (good for the long queue)
- Photography is strictly prohibited in the mausoleum
- There is a museum keeping information and artifacts of Ho Chi Minh
- Suggested to visit here during early weekdays and avoid weekend or public holidays (to avoid the long queue)
WEST LAKE (TAY HO) AND TRUC BACH LAKE
West Lake is the largest lake in Hanoi, separated by the main street called the Street of the Youth where local youths frolic together with their love interest while taking in the beauty of both Tay Ho or West Lake and Truc Bach (pronounced as ‘Chook Buck’). We were informed that both lakes are truly romantic especially during autumn (from late September until late November) when they are covered by mist covers the lake in the early mornings and late afternoons. As a matter of fact, for those who treasure novelty, they would interested in learning that Truc Bach Lake is also the place where the American plane carrying John McCain – the US Presidential Republican candidate for the 2008 Elections – was shot down in the 1960s. John McCain was then taken to the notorious Hoa Lo Prison (known notoriously as the Hanoi Hilton by the American prisoners of war). He was finally released from Vietnamese captivity and returned to the US in 1973.