Hanoi is the face of old and new Asia. It’s worn the title of capital for more than 1,000 years and has seen a thing or two during that time.
One of Vietnam’s most-visited historical sites is in Hanoi: the Temple of Literature. It’s the country’s first university, built in 1076. For a grizzly historical insight, visit Hoa Lo Prison – the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ (as dubbed by American prisoners during the Vietnam War). Re-emerge into today’s Hanoi: street hawkers, buzzing hordes of motorbikes, the slow rhythms of tai chi in the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, all with a backdrop of pockets of French colonial architecture.
The French didn’t only make an impression upon the buildings, of course, their influence has resulted in some fine bakeries – a prize for bread-lovers in Asia – and excellent food can be found in the street stalls. Hunting for bargains is popular too: silk, silver, embroidered goods are specialties. Like the accommodation here, you can get a lot for a little. The Old Quarter is chocked full of hotels, hostels, night markets and water puppets; it’s also colonial heartland. So, whatever you think a holiday in Hanoi might be like, you can’t be sure until you’ve seen this place for yourself. Come on over.