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Ha Noi

Anyone who has ever visited Hanoi will probably tell you that it may be the most beautiful city in all of Asia. People have settled here along the Red River for a thousand years. Nestled along wooded boulevards among the city’s two dozen lakes you will find architectural souvenirs left by all who conquered this great valley, from the Chinese who first came in the last millennium to the French, booted out in our own century.

The trip into the city from Noi Bai Airport takes about an hour and offers some poignant glimpses of modern Vietnamese life: farmers tending their fields, great rivers, modern highways that abruptly become bumpy roads. The drive is especially breathtaking at dusk when the roads fill with bicycles, and everything takes on the same deep colors as the modern paintings you see in Hanoi's galleries. Somehow the setting sun seems enormous here as it dips into the cornfields on the horizon.

On the edge of the city the road dissolves into a maze of winding, narrow, wooded lanes. You are surrounded by roadside artisans, shops and taverns, then by graceful villas and commuters on bicycles, cyclos and motorbikes. Modern buildings appear from nowhere, looking so out of place that you have to wonder if they were dropped from the sky and just left where they came to rest. While you tell yourself that nothing as preposterous as Hanoi can be so beautiful, you cannot help but be dazzled.

Hanoians are proud people; they take pride in their cuisines, their etiquette, their rich tradition and about their own love for the city not only to international tourists but also to people from other provinces in Vietnam. Hanoi food is listed among things you should try before leaving to another world.

Adding to that, Hanoi is packed with museums, monuments, cafes, restaurants, discos, handicraft stores and almost anything that make your stay both convenient and entertaining. Most travelers spend about 2-5 days to tour the city but should you fall in love with Hanoi, you can always stay longer!

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum & Ba Dinh Square

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, without a doubt the city’s single most visited site, and one of Vietnam's most revered places. The Cyclo ride from Hoan Kiem Lake takes only about five minutes. The Mausoleum is open only in the mornings, from 7:30 to 10:30 in the summer and from 8:00 to 11:00 in the winter. There are often large crowds, so arrive early.

This imposing shrine was built on the edge of Ba Dinh Square, the place where Ho Chi Minh delivered the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Viet Nam to half a million of his countrymen in 1945, following the surrender of the Japanese. The angular gray granite edifice stands stern and alone against the skyline. The street and square are usually so abandoned that the whole scene is enormously stately, like a miniature version of Tiananmen Square.

As you exit on the side of the building, look for the ornate yellow former Governor’s Palace, which also faces Ba Dinh Square. Although not open to the public, it is a poignant contrast to Ho Chi Minh's House on Stilts, which sits along a tiny lake in the wooded park behind. He lived and worked here in incredible simplicity from 1958 to 1969. Built of teak, the little house is an architectural gem, and many of his personal things remain on display.

The One Pillar Pagoda is about 50 meters away. This little architectural curiosity gets its name because the shrine sits atop a single massive pedestal. The original was built by Emperor Ly Thai To, who was inspired by a dream.

The Ho Chi Minh Museum is probably Vietnam's most important contemporary architectural achievement. Opened to the public in 1990 to commemorate Ho’s centenary, the exhibits are like a huge scrap book which chronicles his rather transient early years. Guides are available.

Temple of Literature

You can’t help being overwhelmed by the serenity of Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) and Quoc Tu Giam (National University) from the moment you pass through its towering gates. Together, they make one of Asia’s loveliest spots. Hidden from the humming metropolis behind high stone walls and ancient Frangipani trees are some of Vietnam’s most magnificent religious structures and historical treasures. Great pools filled with blooming Lotus bear names like "Well of Heavenly Clarity".

Dating from 1076, this was this part of Asia’s most prestigious center of learning for aristocrats and the children of the Mandarins. The focal point of the site is the Sanctuary dedicated to Confucius, which is filled with elaborate Chinese reliquary.

Live performances of traditional folk music by costumed women are ongoing during public hours.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Although not at its geographical center, after the expansion of Hanoi into a major metropolitan area in 2009, little Hoan Kiem Lake remains the very heart of life in Hanoi. According to a 15th Century legend, a giant turtle presented Emperor Le Loi with a magic sword with which to defeat Chinese invaders. In accordance with their pact, the Emperor returned the sword to the turtle after a glorious victory in battle. Thus, the lake was named Hoan Kiem, or "restored sword."

The lake itself is like a living thing with a personality that changes continuously with the hour and the season. Some of your most vivid memories of Hanoi might come from the 45 minute walks you take around Hoan Kiem at sunrise, at midday, and again after dark.

Shortly after dawn, hundreds of people take their daily exercise on the footpath that circles the lake. If you arrive around six you will see a dozen badminton games, scores of old people practicing Tai Chi, and many shirtless young men jogging or stretching.

During the day the lake belongs to tourists and to workers from surrounding government offices. Tour busses and taxis park at the North end of the lake, near the gates and Foot Bridge which lead to the Ngoc Son Pagoda. Scores of young people sell post cards, maps, and paperback books here. Others shine shoes or offer to memorialize your visit with photos taken with must surely be war-era 35mm cameras. Although persistent, they are seldom rude. Many speak wonderful English and are well worth having a conversation with.

Bat Trang Pottery Village

Located in an area rich in clay, the village has advantage of ingredients to create fine ceramics. Moreover, lying besides the Red river, between Thang Long and Pho Hien, two ancient trade centers in the north of Vietnam during 15th-17th century, Bat Trang’s ceramics were favorite products not only in domestic market, but also foreign ones thanks to Japan, Chinese and Western trading boats that passed by.

In  the18th and 19th century, due to restricting foreign trade policy of Trinh, Nguyen dynasty, it was difficult for pottery products in Vietnam to be exported to foreign countries, and some famous pottery making villages like Bat Trang, or Chu Dau ( Hai Duong province) went through a hard time. Since 1986, thanks to economic reforms and development, more attention has been vested in the village and the world gets a chance to know more about Vietnamese porcelain through many high quality exported Bat Trang’s ceramic products.

Bat Trang ceramics are produced for daily household use (bow, cup, plates, pot, bottle…), worshipping, or decoration purposes. Nowadays, the pottery artists bring into ceramics many innovations in production techniques, and creativity in products’ features, hence many new products have been born, and even daily household items may have the beauty like decoration ones.

Visiting Bat Trang, tourists can take a walk or join a buffalo tour for sightseeing and shopping. Besides many ceramic stores along the road in the village, tourists should visit Bat Trang Porcelain and Pottery Market where they can directly make pottery products by themselves. Many youngsters and foreign tourists are interested in in this pottery- making experience, and spend a whole day in the market to make a gift for family or friends.

Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Pagoda sits on an islet at the North end of the lake. The oldest structures in the complex dated back to 1225, though most of what you see was either built or reconstructed in the 19th century. In addition to the two beautifully ornate Confucianism sanctuaries dedicated to various long-dead humans, a huge stuffed turtle (which most certainly never swam in this lake) resides in a glass display case. The spot is lovely, not only for the ostentatious architecture, but for interesting people who take refuge from the city here. Your camera may capture old men playing checkers in the Pavilion of the Stelae, someone fishing quietly among the willows which practically obscure the island from view, a couple posing for their wedding photo with the Tortoise Pagoda in the background, or the young photographers who always gather on the red wooden bridge.

Practically across the street from the bridge is the Water Puppetry Theater. Scenes from Vietnamese lore and history (including ancient battles) are elaborately performed by colorful lacquered puppets in an indoor pond, accompanied by traditional Vietnamese folk music. It sounds awfully corny, but missing this Hanoi attraction is like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. Tickets for the evening performances are cheap and sell out early in the day. Avoid seats closest to the water or you may get splashed.

The Old Quarter (36 Streets)

Buddhist architecture with many layers of buildings and three main houses called “Tien Duong”, a house for burning incense and “Thuong Dien”. These rooms are connected with each other to form a “Cong” script (工).

The precinct of Tran Quoc Pagoda is highlighted by a high Stupa that you may recognize from a far erected in 1998. This Stupa is composed of 11 floors with a height of 15m; each floor has a vaulted window holding a statue of Amitabha made from gemstone. On the top stands a Nine-Storey Lotus and is also gemstone. This stupa is situated symmetrically with the 50-year-old Bodhi tree gifted by former Indian President on the occasion of his visit to Hanoi in 1959. Abbot Thich Thanh Nha of Tran Quoc Pagoda explains the meaning of this correlation: “The lotus represent Buddha while the Bodhi is a symbol of supreme knowledge”.

Not only that, Tran Quoc is also a small museum of priceless antiques dated thousands to hundreds years old like worshiping statues in the front house. These statues are all engraved and polished meticulously by skillful craftsmen, which all bear spectacular features. Among them, the outstanding one is the Buddha statue, which is evaluated as the most beautiful statue of Vietnam.

With all the historical and architectural values it possesses, Tran Quoc Pagoda is not only worth visiting as a sacred sanctuary of Buddhism attracting countless Buddhist believers; but also an indispensible destination for cultural explorers to Vietnam.

Vietnam Fine Arts Museum

Just across the street from the Temple of Literature, Vietnam Fine Arts Museum can be easily spotted from afar. Like many other buildings that house museums in Hanoi, it was built in the 1930s as a Girl School for Indochina high-ranked officers. In 1966, it officially became Vietnam Fine Arts Museum where store many of Vietnamese artistic essences.

The museum displays not only paintings, ceramics and lacquers created by modern Post-war artists but many of its contents date back as far as pre-historic and feudalism time.

Unfortunately, many of the art work found here are replicate, for the original has by and large been destroyed during Viet Nam war.

It is worth heading here after you have visited the Temple of Literature.

Van Phuc Silk Village

Situated on the bank of Nhue River, about 10km southwest of Hanoi Old Quarter, Van Phuc silk village is renowned for its traditional weaving and premium quality silk products. At the age of more than 1,200 years, Van Phuc is proud to be the most ancient silk village which provides the best silk in Vietnam.

Visitors to Van Phuc village will be impressed by typical manner of an ancient village in the north of Vietnam with banyan tree, well, communal house, and the sound of power-looms everywhere. Walking on the main road in Van Phuc, tourists will be lost in the world of silk with various products like shirts, ties, crafts, dresses… made of silk available in the village.

For a long period of time, silk was considered as extremely precious handwork which was only used to tailor Royal members' and aristocrats’ dress. The special beauty of Van Phuc or Ha Dong silk was inspiration for many Vietnamese poems, songs and movies (see The White Silk Dress, one of the 5 most outstanding Vietnamese movies).

In Nguyen dynasty time, Van Phuc silk was brought to Hue imperial citadel to make dress for royal members. Between 1931 and 1932, Van Phuc silk was on display in international exhibitions for the first time in Marseille, then Paris and was highly appreciated and preferred by the French. From 1958 to 1988, Van Phuc silk mostly was exported to Eastern European market, and since 1990, it has been known widely in many countries all over the world.

Van Phuc silk has been known for its smooth, light weight, and elegant appearance. Especially, a traditional kind of silk called Van Silk made in Van Phuc make the wearers feel cool in summer and warm in winter. Today, to satisfy various demand for silk of the market, Van Phuc silk producers have expanded their silk and garment goods like embroidered silk, , wrinkled silk, double layers and more colors for silk products.

Many families in Van Phuc open their own shops on the main road of the village; create a “town of silk” that sell eye-catching and high quality silk products. Tourists may buy available nice souvenir and clothes in the shop, or select the most suitable materials to then get customized products. The sellers are very friendly and can speak a little English and French to communicate to foreign tourists.

Nowadays, although the weaving has been mechanized for higher productivity, there are still simple manual looms in some houses in the village which help tourists contemplate the genuinely traditional Vietnamese way of making silk.

Ethnology Museum

This is the most recent yet probably the largest and undoubtedly the most interesting Museums in Hanoi and Vietnam. The Museum comes out of the recognition that Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country and that more attention should be paid to promote socio-cultural diversity. Despite being out of the way compared with other museums in Hanoi, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is worth a thorough visit, for those who are keen to learn about the multiculturalism of Vietnam and for those who would appreciate some green space.

There are both indoors and outdoors section. While the in-housed exhibition is particularly informative, the outdoors display and activities make the museum stand out from the rest. There are a number of houses modeling after the traditional architecture of ethnic minorities, especially those who live in Northern and Central highlands.

You will be blown away by the elaboration of these architectures, at the same time being thoroughly engaged in traditional games and activities such as water puppet show, calligraphy, stone game (O An Quan). The museum is especially a great choice for those who cannot find time to visit all remote areas where live the majority of Vietnam ethnic minorities.

Water Puppet Show

Located at 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang street, nearby Hoan Kiem Lake, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is a familiar address for both domestic tourists and foreign ones, who want to enjoy water puppet shows and discovery the beauty of this unique Vietnam traditional art.

In 1969, the theater was established and since 1990; many water puppet shows have been performed by Thang Long theater artists. Every year, about 500 shows are offered to approximately 150,000 audiences. Moreover, the theater has brought water puppetry art to more then 40 foreign countries like Japan, France, America, Australia, Spain… through performance tours, or international cultural exchange program or puppetry festivals.

Traditional content of water puppet performance like daily life of Vietnamese farmers (cultivating, tending buffalo, catching fishes…), communal entertainment (swimming contest, dragon dancing…), or historical legends (Le Loi returns precious sword…), with modest performance way have appealed audiences for centuries. However, the artists of Thang Long Water Puppet Theater want to renew the old puppet shows with effect of light, music and combination between people and puppets.

It sounds risky, but the theater has been successful since the beginning the beginning and received favors and praises from audiences. To enjoy some typical water puppet performances, you can take a look at the video below.  

Certainly, it will be much great if tourists can directly watch these shows in Thang Long Water Puppets Theater after enjoying a cup of coffee in the coffee lounge which is right in front of the theater, and giving a nice view to Hoan Kiem Lake.

TRAVEL BROUCHURE 2013
Spotlight Destination
TESTIMONIAL
  • I spent my 05 holidays in Hanoi and Halong Bay with Vietpremier service. It was a memorable trip for me and my friends. Not only the professional service, but also the intelligent tour arrangement and seasoned tour guide make us feel highly comfortable, minus the cost for us but still bring the best service. This impressed trip made me miss all about the person, scenery, lifestyle and I’m really want to be there again. Those are unforgettable holidays with me and my friends. I’m so excited with my next trip with Vietpremier J
  • Ms. Nguyễn Như Hảo & friends

  • Phung and our guides responded perfectly to our needs. We were tired after the train journey and so the only part of the itinerary we would change would have been to just spend the afternoon by the pool at the resort rather than taking a tour of the Hoi An sites
  • Mrs. Lisa Marie Behan and our family

  • Mr Liem was a wonderful guide he was professional but still showed a good sense of humour. We would never have been able to cross the roads without his help. Your design and management of our trip were excellent. I just realised that I hadn’t given feedback on the meal in the Mekong on the first day – this was at the house on the Mekong river, this was very remiss of me as although all meals were excellent this one was exceptional and the best we had for the entire trip, I should also have mentioned that the guide (a lady) we had on the Mekong cruise was excellent.
  • Ms. Jennifer Grace Agustin & Friends

  • A very well designed tour. We were very thankful to have contacted you and felt that your arrangements for us made everything a lot easier. Mr. Trang He was a fabulous guide who was quite knowledgeable about everything. We really felt like he made our trip even more enjoyable. His English is also extremely good and he tries hard to accommodate. Our favorite was Phu Quoc but we also really enjoyed our tour of the Mekong Delta though didn’t need two nights in Can Tho because there isn’t much to do in the city. Maybe should have done one night on a boat in hindsight but wasn’t sure we would like that.
  • Ms. Marlo Kravetsky & Mr. Daniel Ages

  • Hi Viet Premier!
  • Mr. Johan Kruimer

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