Hanoi is one of the oldest and most attractive capitals in Southeast Asia. A charming, fun city where I wish I had more time to spend. I will certainly return someday.
My friend and I arrived in the evening from Siem Reap after a frazzling experience involving a huge visa snafu. The details are in my post about Cambodia.
We stayed at the Essence Hanoi Hotel, and I cannot say enough good things about this hotel. They went above and beyond to help us.
After a good night’s rest to calm our frazzled nerves, we woke to a gorgeous day in Hanoi. After the delicious buffet breakast at the hotel, we explored the old quarter.
First stop was the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Sunbeam bridge. There is a very interesting story about a legendary turtle that lives in this lake and there is even a turtle temple.
The ancient quarter is 600 years old and contains streets named for the item. they sell. Hang is the word for street so the streets are Hang Gai (Silk Street) or Hang Tre (Bamboo street). Makes shopping easy I think!
We walked to Bach Ma temple which is the oldest building in the old quarter. The legend says that a white horse helped build the city, therefore it is now the guardian spirit.
Quan Chuong or Gate of the Commander of the Regiment. It is the only remaining gateway to the old quarter out of the original thirty-six.
The Temple of Literature was perhaps my favorite sight in Hanoi. This is the oldest architechtural complex in the city. It was established in 1070 during the time of the Ly Dynasty.
It was founded in honor of the Chinese philosopher Confucius and served as center for higher learning.
As per our usual routine, we enjoyed a cocktail (or three) at the fanciest hotel in town. In this town it was the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.
Our hotel kindly arranged tickets for the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, one of the oldest and most famous in Vietnam.
This ancient form of entertainment dates back 1000 years to the Red River Delta where performances took place in the river. Now the puppeteers stand waist deep in water behind the stage. Tales from peasant culture are performed and sometimes involve fire breathing dragons, smoke and fireworks. It was beautiful to watch and the live music played was lovely.
After the theater we dined at The Green Tangerine. This is an upscale French-Vietnamese style restaurant and was spectacular. The presentations showed off the classical French training of the chef. I do love beautiful food!
After dinner we enjoyed the Sunbeam bridge fantastically aglow in red lights.
Perhaps the best part of Hanoi is the food. Hanoi has some of the best food in Vietnam. You need to eat like a local to properly experience the cuisine. The best way is with a street food tour. My hotel arranged a tour and it was some of the best food I have ever eaten!
After the street food tour, which I still dream about, we did some shopping on Hang Ma (paper product street) for lanterns and then rested until evening where we met up with an American friend who lives in Hanoi.
Friday night in the ancient quarter turns into a great street party! My friend took us to a restaurant called Little Hanoi which was a short walk from our hotel. They served delicious classical local food.
We left Hanoi and took a pre-arranged van to Ha Long Bay for a two-night cruise. This is a must do when visiting Hanoi since it is very close and full of absolutely stunning unique beauty.
Read More: Paradise Luxury Cruises Ha Long Bay
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