Although it is the modern-day capital of Vietnam, Hanoi still retains the mystery and charm of past centuries. Narrow lanes and traditional shop houses invite an exciting exploration by walking, while its many beautiful public spaces – lakes, parks, tree-lined boulevards and monuments – give the city an air of elegance and harmony with nature unique among Asian capitals.
Begin your day visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where visitors can pay respects to the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh. The Mausoleum is closed every Monday and Friday and also closes annually in October and November for restoration. Continue through the park to Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House, the simple two-room dwelling where Ho Chi Minh lived from 1958 until his final days (1969). Preserved in the same condition as during his life, it may be viewed through the windows. Continue to the Temple Of Literature, a peaceful series of walled courtyards and graceful gateways; and one of the best serving examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius, this was also the site of Vietnam’s first university.
Afterwards, visit one of Hanoi’s famous museums, the Museum Of Ethnology (Closed on Mondays and Vietnamese New Year), which brings to life the astonishing ethnic diversity in Vietnam, with art and artefacts from the 54 different ethnic groups that inhabit the country. Inside the museum are detailed descriptions of minority groups, with examples of their traditional clothing and way of life. Outside are faithful reconstructions of traditional longhouses, cemeteries and other distinctive ethnic buildings.
In the afternoon, visit Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple, located in heart of Hanoi, which contains an islet with the tiny Tortoise Pagoda. En route, pass other colonial landmarks such as the magnificent Opera House (may be seen from the outside only) and St Joseph’s Cathedral.
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