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Essential Tips for Travel in Hanoi

Hanoi has emerged as one of the most popular cities with tourists heading to the Far East. It is a rare mix of bustling city, history and culture with a touch of a colonial past. It was first of all the Capital of North Vietnam and subsequently Capital of the Unified Country after the end of the Vietnam War.  A good Hanoi travel agent will ensure that every visitor to this lovely city will experience its many highlights, and there are many. The service often starts by assisting with a cheap Vietnam visa that is available on arrival at Hanoi International Airport and is followed up with Hanoi tours which will give newcomers to the City a real appreciation of what Hanoi is all about.

For tourists new to South East Asia, Hanoi is a stunning introduction. Even travellers who know the Far East well will see things in Hanoi that set it apart from other Asian cities. The influence of the French who occupied Indochina until the middle of the 20th Century can be seen in the architecture and layout of parts of Hanoi while the baguette has remained as part of Vietnam’s wonderful cuisine.

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It’s the cuisine served in small stalls in the narrow bustling streets that is one of the many highlights in Hanoi. If a stall is busy, it means that everything is very fresh and perfectly safe to eat. Many locals have breakfast on their way to work and dinner on the way home. While your Hanoi tour package is likely to include accommodation and arrangements for food, these will almost certainly include the chance to sit on a plastic chair and eat street food while the busy life of locals goes on around. Many of the dishes that appear on menu in the best restaurants are available in less impressive surroundings in the streets. Less impressive but in many ways more atmospheric.

When it comes to busy, think of traffic and don’t even think about crossing the road by yourself unless you are certain that there is time. Hanoi’s traffic is the definition of chaos with noisy motorbikes often weaving between and around larger vehicles in their haste to get to their destination. They really don’t let pedestrians get in their way.  To be fair, it does take some adjustment but it is worth it, and with the help of an experienced Hanoi travel agent and a guide it will provide for Hanoi tours, you shouldn’t have a problem.

You should take a short time to settle into your hotel before you start exploring. You are likely to have got an initial feel for Hanoi as you travel in from the Airport. The historic Old Quarter is a popular place to stay and hence it is likely to be something that you can experience by simply walking out of the hotel foyer.  Many of the major sights are here but newcomers to Hanoi are better advised to see them on an organised tour initially. Depending on the time you are expecting to spend in this wonderful city, you may well have the time to return to some of them later.

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Some of Hanoi’s Highlights
The Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem) is a place that locals and tourists alike gather. Legend tells of it providing the King with a sword to repel invaders; once it was done he returned it to the Lake. At 18th Century Buddhist Temple sits on a small island in the Lake and especially at festival time, it is a place to visit.  While this Temple, Ngoc Son, may get the most visitors annually, it is certain that your Hanoi tour itinerary will include the Temple of Literature which makes a strong case for being Hanoi’s prettiest. There are several and scaped courtyards, gardens and pavilions in a temple that dates back to 1070 and was dedicated to Confucius. It was Vietnam’s first university and there are several monuments to previous scholars within the grounds.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is another landmark in the middle of Hanoi gets plenty of attention from tourists, as does the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, generally regarded as the Father of the Nation.

The Opera House, constructed just before the First World War, is a fine example of French architecture and is modelled on an equivalent built in Paris.  It is a place where you can enjoy a range of cultural performances. Water puppetry is a traditional form of entertainment in Vietnam with perhaps Thang Long Theatre the best place to enjoy it.

Something the French will take less pride in is ‘’Hanoi Hilton’’, Hoa Lo Prison has become one of the main tourist attractions. Its most famous prisoner was the former Presidential candidate John McCain who was shot down in Vietnam during the War. It was in fact a French creation where independence Vietnam fighters were held from the late 1800s until Ho Chi Minh and his men finally managed to defeat the colonials. There are several interesting exhibits for visitors to see, including much from the Vietnam War.

At weekends the Night Market buzzes though there is nothing for sale that isn’t available by day on ordinary weekdays. It’s more fun than the bustle of the day and there are plenty of snacks available as well.

Summary
Vietnam has been welcoming increasing number of tourists year on year. It passed 10 million in 2016 and continue to grow. The vast majority see Hanoi for at least a couple of days during their visit. Arguably, a holiday to Vietnam is incomplete without at least a little time in the Capital. An experienced Hanoi travel agent will be happy to talk to you about Hanoi and its many attractions. It is worth taking advantage of that experience and to ask any questions. It will not commit you to anything and might just be the start of an amazing experience in one of Asia’s top destinations.

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