Let’s face it. After enough time in Vietnam, there are going to be days where you’ve had enough time in Vietnam. The constant noise, impossible sidewalks and horrifying traffic eventually wear down the optimism of even the most passionate traveler. But escape is possible. Just head to Hanoi’s French Quarter, where the streets are wide and clean, and the atmosphere is nearly European.
“If you build it, they will come.” Wasn’t that supposed to be the lesson, Mr. Costner? But sometimes when you build it, they don’t come… and Hanoi has had to learn that the hard way. We visited the Lideco real estate project on the western outskirts of the city, to see the ruined remains of one of Hanoi’s biggest dreams.
The grid of streets found just north of Hoàn Kiếm Lake is Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Once home to merchants and craft guilds, this section of town is now firmly in the hands of tourism. But if you can block out the thousands of travel agencies advertising Sapa Tours, and ignore the constant sales pitches of the cyclo drivers, it’s possible to get a sense of how the Old Quarter must have felt in… well… the old days.
Hanoi has been conquered, occupied, liberated and renamed more times than any other city we’ve visited. In fact, upheaval seems to be the only constant in Hà Nội… or is that Long Biên? Or Đại La? Thăng Long, Đông Đô, Đông Quan, or Tonkin? Here’s a concise rundown of the most important moments in this […]
Nothing in the arsenal of the American military was as deadly to the people of Hanoi as the B-52. During one operation, charmingly nicknamed the “Christmas Bombings”, 15,000 tons were dropped on the city, resulting in the deaths of 1624 civilians. But Hanoi was not without its defenses. Today, the B-52 Victory Museum celebrates the Vietnamese skill at shooting the hated American planes out of the sky.
Thank you, Uncle Ho: our hero! Leader of the struggle to free Vietnam from foreign influence! As a humble token of our gratitude, we honor you inside this mausoleum, where your corpse will be injected with embalming fluid and displayed eternally to generations of patriots … Uncle Ho? Why are you crying?
After one weekend in the city, we had already established Bia Hoi as our favorite new Hanoi weekend tradition. Bia Hoi joints are found on almost every corner in the capital, serving light, super-cheap draft beer, along with food. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’ve had: if you finish it by pounding down a few Bia Hoi, you’ll go to bed happy.
Legend has it that Emperor Lê Lợi was fishing on Hoàn Kiếm Lake, when a turtle god emerged and asked for his magic sword. Although the sword, which he had used to defeat the invading forces of the northern Ming, was precious to him, Lê Lợi was not about to second-guess a god. The turtle took the sword in his jaws and brought it to the depths of the lake, where it remains to this day.
A distinctive facade of three wide arches welcomes shoppers to Hanoi’s largest covered market, the Chợ Đồng Xuân. With mostly clothes and bulk foods on sale, this isn’t a place for souvenir-hunting tourists. But if you’re in the market for a fascinating slice of local life, it might be just what you’re looking for.
Because the Old Quarter of Hanoi has given itself over so completely to tourism, it can be hard to get a sense of its history. But if you’d like to see how families lived in the 19th century, head to the Heritage House, in the heart of the backpacker district at 87 Ma May.