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Regarded by many as the “Paris of Asia”, Hanoi displays its French colonial past alongside a distinctive localized cultural identity. Here the influence of both can be seen and felt throughout the city’s buildings and restaurant cuisine.
I landed at Hanoi’s international airport in the early hours of the morning and from there made an almost 2 hour journey through hectic traffic to my hotel.
Vietnam’s capitol city has transformed itself from war ravage to a sophisticated metropolis and over the past years, tourist visitors to Hanoi have increased significantly. High-rise buildings now dominate central Hanoi where modern shopping malls, art and innovative architecture support a range of sensational world-class restaurants. Together with this modernity, ancient architectural and historical buildings have been preserved and in the Old Quarter, pagodas, temples and other historical sites including the Hanoi Opera House and the One Pillar Pagoda have become popular tourist attractions.
Hanoi is the Vietnam’s second largest city and is situated on the banks of the Red
River. The city is experiencing a building boom and is one of the most rapidly developing cities of S.E. Asia. This is the city that once served as the capital city of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. It is as a result of the French presence that Hanoi presents its captivating blend of East and West, combining traditional Sino-Vietnamese styles with French flair.
As Vietnam’s gem, Hanoi offers a host of major attractions that have become draws for holidaying visitors to the city. One of the more popular sites and visited by many tourists is the Hoan Kiem Lake that translates to “Lake of the Returned Sword” or “Lake of the Restored Sword”. Located in the center of town it is within easy walking distance from the historic Old Quarter. This attractive park around the lake is a popular venue for locals who gather to relax in the afternoon, or practice tai chi in the morning. The Old Quarter itself is also a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Here, one can stroll through this historical district and find restaurants serving local cuisine specialties as well as clubs and bars, shops and a weekend night market providing a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food. The area has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city comprised of 36 streets, most of which are now still part of the old quarter.
The Hanoi Opera House is a Mecca for those who appreciate art and architecture and should not be missed. I was lucky to stay at Hotel de l’Opera Hanoi located just steps away from this world famous and beautiful Hanoi Opera House. This mesmerizing building with its art-nouveau exterior is an exquisite example of French Colonial flair. The opera house is still a performance venue for Hanoi’s high arts and is an attraction for both viewers of performing arts and those with interest in iconic monuments.
One should take advantage of a visit to Hanoi by making a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Here limestone karsts and isles tower out of the bay providing visitors with an unforgettable view of stunning scenery.
I found Hanoi and its surrounds mesmerizing and difficult to leave. I have promised myself a return trip soon.
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