1. Introduction to Hanoi
Hanoi, literally the “city between the rivers”, is the capital and second biggest city of Viet Nam. Hanoi is located in northern region of Vietnam, in the Red River delta, nearly 90 km (56 mi) away from the coastal area. Hanoi covers an area of 3,344.6 square kilometers (42 sq mi) divided into 12 urban districts, 1 district-leveled town and 17 rural districts. Hanoi’s population is constantly growing (about 3.5% per year), 2015 was estimated at 7.7 million people.
The historical Old Town, the colonial French Quarter, ancient temples of more than thousand years of age and various scenic lakes and landmarks make up one of the most fascinating cities of Southeast Asia, with a mix of Chinese and French influences enriching the vibrant Vietnamese culture.
Hanoi has been capital of Vietnam for nearly a thousand years, during which the city has endured numerous invasions, occupations, restorations and name changes. The Chinese ruled Hanoi and much of Vietnam off and on for centuries, until a Vietnamese general named Le Loi (the later King Le Thai To) finally secured the nation’s independence in 1428. It wasn’t until 1831 that the Nguyen Dynasty renamed the city Ha Noi, which can be translated as “Between Rivers” or “River Interior”.
In mid-1800s, Viet Nam was colonized by the French and Ha Noi became capital of French Indochina in 1887. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was introduced into Vietnamese society. In addition, it was also the development of plantation economies to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee. The French colonialists largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders such as Phan Boi Chau, Phan Chu Trinh, Emperor Ham Nghi and Ho Chi Minh calling for independence.
During the Second World War the Japanese occupied Hanoi and the rest of Viet Nam (1940-1945), exploited the country for its natural resources. With the end of the war, the French resumed control of their colony. In response, Ho Chi Minh launched a liberation movement that led to eight bloody years of war with France. The French finally withdrew in 1954, leaving Vietnam divided in half at the 17th parallel, with Ho Chi Minh’s communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam based in the north, and the Republic of Vietnam in the south. It follows the bitter Vietnam War (the American War), during which Ha Noi suffered from heavy bombardments. Ha Noi became the capital of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were formally reunited in July 1976.
Vietnamese is the official language. Hotel, Restaurant, Shop can both use Vietnamese and English.
The standard Viet Nam time zone is GMT+7
Hanoi is situated in a tropical monsoon zone with two main seasons. During the dry season, which lasts from October to April, it is cold and there is very little rainfall, except from January to March, when the weather is still cold but there is some light rain. The wet season, from May to September, is hot with heavy rains and storms.
The official monetary unit in Vietnam is Viet Nam dong. The exchange rate of 1US dollar is equivalent to approximately 22,775 VND (as of March, 2018). Currency exchanges are available at the airport, hotels, banks and jewelry shops.
US dollar is also accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops.
7. Credit Cards
Major credit cards such as VISA, Master Card and American Express are accepted by most business establishments.
The standard supply is 220volts, 50-60Hz. The following electrical plugs are used in most hotels:
9. Telephone Services
SIM cards are available at the airports and many shops in town. Recharge cards are widely available in small shops and on the sidewalks. There are 3 major GSM network operators in Vietnam: Viettel, Vinaphone and Mobifone. SIM cards are around 50,000 VND with some credit. Balance check is *101# for main account and *102# for bonus account. To use Data feature packages, you may need to activate 3G/4G data.
10. Places of Interest
Hoa Lo Prison Museum
This thought-provoking site is all that remains of the former Hoa Lo Prison, ironically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US POWs during the American War. Most exhibits relate to the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s, focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. A gruesome relic is the ominous French guillotine, used to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries. There are also displays focusing on the American pilots who were incarcerated at Hoa Lo during the American War.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
This fabulous collection relating to Vietnam’s ethnic minorities features well-presented tribal art, artifacts and everyday objects gathered from across the nation, and examples of traditional village houses. Displays are well labeled in Vietnamese, French and English.
Temple of Literature
Founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, the Temple of Literature is dedicated to Confucius (Khong Tu). Inside you’ll find a pond known as the ‘Well of Heavenly Clarity’, a low-slung pagoda and statues of Confucius and his disciples. A rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture, the complex honours Vietnam’s finest scholars and men of literary accomplishment. It is the site of Vietnam’s first university, established here in 1076, when entrance was only granted to those of noble birth.
Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
In the tradition of Lenin, Stalin and Mao, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is a monumental marble edifice. Contrary to his desire for a simple cremation, the mausoleum was constructed from materials gathered from all over Vietnam between 1973 and 1975. Set deep in the bowels of the building in a glass sarcophagus is the frail, pale body of Ho Chi Minh. The mausoleum is usually closed from 4 Sep to 4 Nov while his embalmed body goes to Russia for maintenance.
Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
This humble, traditional stilt house where Ho lived intermittently from 1958 to 1969 is set in a well-tended garden adjacent a carp-filled pond and has been preserved just as Ho left it. From here, you look out on to Hanoi’s most opulent building, the beautiful, Beaux-Arts, Presidential Palace, constructed in 1906 for the Governor General of Indochina. It’s now used for official receptions and isn’t open to the public.
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Added to Unesco’s World Heritage List in 2010 and reopened in 2012, Hanoi’s Imperial Citadel was the hub of Vietnamese military power for over 1000 years. Ongoing archaeological digs of ancient palaces, grandiose pavilions and imperial gates are complemented by fascinating military command bunkers from the American War – complete with maps and 1960s communications equipment – used by the legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
One of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam, Tran Quoc Pagoda is on the eastern shore of Ho Tay, just off Thanh Nien Street, which divides this lake from Truc Bach Lake. A stela here, dating from 1639, tells the history of this site. The pagoda was rebuilt in the 15th century and again in 1842.
11. Where to eat
Cha Ca La Vong Restaurant
Cha Ca La Vong can be considered one of the symbols of the capital city. It was named after one street inside Hanoi Old Quarter. First served Hanoian gourmets since French colonial time by Đoàn family, this dish has been being one of the most favorite dishes and the pride of Hanoi citizens.
Address: 14 Cha Ca Street, Hoan Kiem, District, Hanoi
Sen is a sophisticated restaurant serving a buffet dinner that will impress everyone – even people who don’t usually like buffets! Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the ivory-colour scheme and neo-colonial architecture is a suitable match for the excellent seafood, oysters, sashimi, crab, escargot and Vietnamese spring rolls served inside.
Address: 60 Ly Thai To Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Ming Restaurant – Pan Pacific Hanoi Hotel
Widely lauded as one of the best Cantonese restaurant in Hanoi, Ming is known for its dim sum buffet which offers great variety, authentic flavours and refined presentations. The restaurant also serves a range of exquisite Cantonese cuisine in a modern Oriental setting
Address: 2nd Floor, Pan Pacific Hanoi Hotel, 1 Thanh Nien Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
The name “Ngon” means “Delicious”. What a simple but truly descriptive definition of the food here. A variety of specialties and street food from three regions of Vietnam are served such as shrimp-mince pork grilled on the sugar cane, rice steam rolls, fried crab spring rolls, clams, shrimp, beef pho, fresh spring rolls. If you are a fan of Vietnamese food, it is a must-go place in Hanoi.
18 Phan Boi Chau Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
34 Phan Dinh Phung Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Uu Dam Restaurant
Uu Dam (Udumbara) is a term from Sanskrit, which means “sacred flower descending to earth from heaven”. According to Buddhist scriptures, Udumbara are extremely rare, they only bloom once every three millennium. Uu Dam Vegan offers a cozy and quiet vibe, with exquisite, nutritious and healthy cuisine in a peaceful and relaxing environment for all our precious diners, their families and friends.
Address: 34 Hang Bai Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Cuisine type: Vegetarian
Bo De Tam Restaurant
Bo De Tam is a Buddhism-influent restaurant, since the name Bo De Tam means “The heart of Buddha”. Bo De Tam is famous for their swallow soup, which brings customers the energy needed for refresh, and their Arhat (La Han) high class vegan meal, which contains the foods are believed that were eaten by Arhat thousands years ago
Address: 168 Pham Huy thong Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Cuisine type: Vegetarian