Broad boulevards lined with buildings of French-inspired architecture, little roadside galleries full of artwork, charming individuals native hats and dress mixing with others wearing outfits are what awaits those on a Vietnam tour of Hanoi, the location referred to as cultural capital.
Hanoi, the country's second largest city (which has a population of 6 million and covering 900 square km for the banks from the Red River), has been said is the life blood in the country- something easily proven by the walk-through the streets on this French-colonial city using its lakes and temples. Readily navigable when walking, there's a lot to see and do only at an easy pace; start your Vietnam tour from Hanoi and you will probably certainly notice the strong sense of laid-back tranquillity that just a timelessly old settlement might have.
History. Dating back as soon as three centuries before Christ, Hanoi was once generally known as Thang Long, and it was renamed Hanoi in 1831 at the same time when Hue was the funding. Present-day Hanoi, however, was largely built in the French occupation- a well known fact reflected in broad streets and charming French inspired buildings that are manifestation of the city.
Old Quarter. Hoan Kiem District (aka the existing Quarter), considered the city's business hub and main tourist destination, is perhaps one of the most definitive of Hanoi. A walk over the area is tantamount to stepping back in time - its streets are full of scooters, traders and folks simply out for any leisurely stroll around the block. Here, you can find ancient commercial streets named after their original businesses going back about 1,000 years, including names of cotton, jewellery, herbs, and silk. Although many of such concerns have been substituted with more modern businesses, once can still comprehend the feeling of how it was a long time ago, and gain a feeling of rich, old customs. Preserved shop-houses built somewhat on the century ago with street-facing facades and multiple courtyards inside are actually alongside with hip cafes, bars, restaurants, bakeries, boutique shops and galleries.
Places to Visit. Ho Chi Minh, the nation's hottest leader (known to his people as 'Uncle Ho') rests within a glass case with the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in central Hanoi (albeit against his wishes). A vacation in Uncle Ho's final resting place is an extraordinary experience on a Vietnam tour- in fact, it is not only a typical attraction, it's actually a portion of a nation's history. For all those visiting, it would do well to remember the reverence the locals have for Uncle Ho-dress with respect (no shorts, sleeveless shirts and miniskirts) and everyone needs to deposit their bags and cameras before you go in.
The world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi can be a performance art rooted in the tradition going back the 11th century, from the time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers can make entertainment by standing in the waist-deep water using the puppets performing over the water. Large rods to support the puppets seemed like these were moving throughout the water, together with the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. They will tell traditional folk stories through operatic songs, associated with an orchestra playing traditional music using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. Today, the tradition continues.
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