The capital of Vietnam, Hà Nội, is a bustling metropolis with plenty of motorbikes to watch for when crossing the street. Somehow, through the anarchy of traffic, locals and intrepid visitors can quickly fall into the rhythm and cross safely to try local eateries. Sidewalks are littered with low-level seats and plenty of noodle bowls, spring rolls and green leaves. Brush up on your Vietnamese to know what type of meat you are eating if you want to avoid acceptable local alternatives such as dog meat. In the evening, the sidewalks seem to expand with locals sprawling out with food and beer as they socialize together.
Autumn is the most beautiful time of year to visit. The trees turn into stunning orange and yellow hues, the perfect time to stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake.
Remnants of French colonial architecture are visible in colorful buildings, small in width, long in depth, with arched windows and verandas. This architecture is also visible in the Presidential Palace, which Ho Chi Minh refused to live in after a brief period and, instead, lived in the servants' quarters located in the back. Tourists can visit the Palace Botanical Gardens to see both quarters.
Many visitors wait in line to see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh (aka Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh or Uncle Ho), which was constructed in his honor, but ironically against his wishes
Highlights from Hanoi
- Take a stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake and spot the endangered soft-shell turtles rumored to live in the water.
- Đồng Xuân Market is an indoor market found at the northern end of the street by the same name. Dong Xuan street becomes a night market on the weekend (Friday-Sunday) without the intimidating daytime traffic.
- Learn more about Ho Chi Minh by visiting the Mausoleum or Museum.
- Many locations sporting the same name, but the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is the most famous and recommended.
- Relax by visiting the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater in the evening. Tickets may need to be purchased in advance.