Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi is referred to as the ‘Green City’ and exudes an atmosphere of sleepy sophistication. It is a metropolis where one can find the exciting new face of Asia blends with the old in a way that is truly captivating. Imbued with French cultural influences that are still very much in evidence from colonial times, the city has evolved in harmony with its past. Motorbikes hum and swarm throughout the city, snaking through the Old Quarter, still a thriving center of trade for nearly a millennium and the place to put your finger on the pulse of this city on the move.
The city has numerous historical gems, from its labyrinth of back alleys to the walkways hugging the edges of Hoan Kiem Lake, where the 18th century Pagoda Thap Rua rests peacefully atop an islet. Many fine museums can be found in the city, including the Van Mieu Temple of Literature, Museum of Ethnology and Bao Tang My Thuat, Hanoi’s Fine Arts Museum. You can amble along Dien Bien Phu Street and marvel at spectacular views of the Presidential Palace and Chua Mot Cot, known as the One Pillar Pagoda. Expect to be seduced by a city steeped in French and Chinese culinary and architectural influences and romanced by the sights and excursions that Hanoi and neighboring provinces boast in abundance.
While Hanoi is the governmental center of Vietnam, it is also a jumping off point for visiting exotic and beautiful destinations that lie within a short drive. There are national parks, peaceful valley towns such as Mai Chau and the stunningly beautiful Halong Bay, with its enchanting vistas of limestone karst formations.