We would like to recommend Top 10 things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam:
1. Hoan Kiem Lake (The Lake of the Restored Sword)
Hoan Kiem Lake meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword” or “Lake of the Restored Sword”, is a lake in the historical center of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. The lake is one of the major scenic spots in the city and serves as a focal point for its public life.
2. Old Quarter
The Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem lake, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original commerce.
The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops. Local cuisine specialties as well as several clubs and bars can be found here also. A night market (near Xuân market) in the heart of the district opens for business every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening with a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.
3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large memorial to the Vietnamese leader in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is located in the center of Ba Ðình Square, which is the place where Ho read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
4. The Water Puppet Theater
Water puppetry “puppets that dance on water”) is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century CE when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play. Traditional legends and historical tales are among the enchanting puppet plays performed at this popular theatre
5. Temple of Literature & Ancient National University
It is a temple of Confucius in Hanoi, Vietnam. Although several Van Mieu can be found throughout Vietnam, the most prominent and famous is that situated in the city of Hanoi, which also functioned as Vietnam’s first university. It is featured on the back of the one hundred thousand Vietnamese banknote.
6. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (Vietnamese: Bao tang dan toc hoc Viett Nam) is a museum in Hanoi, Vietnam, which focuses on the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. It is located on a 3.27-acre (13,200 m2) property in the Cau giay District, about 8 km from the city center.
It is widely considered to be the finest modern museum in Vietnam and a tourist attraction in Hanoi.
The proposal for the museum was officially approved on December 14, 1987. Construction lasted from 1987 to 1995, and it was opened to the public on November 12, 1997.
The exhibition building was designed by the architect Hà Duc Linh, a member of the Tày ethnic group, in the shape of a Dong Son drum, and the interior architecture was designed by the French architect Véronique Dollfus.
7. West Lake
Ho Tay is the largest of all the lakes in Ha Noi. The lake is on the northwest part of the city. Long ago, the lake was a branch of the Red river but later, as the river changed course, the lake remained a body of water just west of the river. There are many legends associated with West Lake. The most popular is the legend of the golden buffalo. As the story goes, there once was a medicine man who was a giant. He is well known in Vietnam for his medicine practice and the king often used him to treat the royal family. His fame reached China and he was invited to China to treat the king. He was successful where others have failed so the king was going to reward him with great wealth.
He refused offerings of gold and only requested that the king give him all the black copper in the king’s vault. The king agreed and the giant left for Vietnam with vast amounts of black copper. In Vietnam the giant molded a giant bell of black copper. The giant rang the bell and the sound resonated all the way to China. In the king’s vault there was a golden buffalo. Upon hearing the sound of the bell, the buffalo came to life (because he thought that his mother was calling him) and charged southward. Upon reaching Ha Noi, the buffalo trampled the land in the area near Red river. Over the years, this area filled with water and became Ho Tay or West Lake.
8. Hoa Lo Prison
The Hoa Lo Prison, later sarcastically known to American prisoners of war as the “Hanoi Hilton”, was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
9. Hanoi night market
This market spreading from Hang Dao Street to Dong Xuan Market creates a busy and crowded walking street. on weekend evenings, a lot of people come here to stroll or go shopping, which becomes a habit.
As a commercial street, you can find everything concerning clothes and recreation. Clothes, sweets, “o mai” (salted dry fruit), decorations, toys, stationeries, sundry goods are respectively sold on Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, Hang Buom, Hang Duong, Luong Van Can, Hang Ma, Ngo Gach and Hang Ca Streets. All goods and facilities can be found from Dong Xuan Market to Hang Giay Street.
People come here for shopping or just strolling in the crowd to feel the atmosphere of the night market and the habit of Hanoians. Children are excited about going shopping with their family, sitting on their father’s shoulders, holding their mother’s hand, walking in a stream of people, playing with sand pictures and painting statues. It is so romantic to see lovers hand in hand walking on the street, smiling, taking pictures, buying some pieces of clothes at weekends. There are lots of foreign tourists who go sight-seeing or shopping. It is easy for them to find Hanoi or Vietnamese style souvenirs at low prices.
Food stalls often sell “banh beo” (bloating fern-shaped cake), bacon, grilled “nem chua”, sausages, Hai Phong bread, Donner Kebap, cakes, sweet porridge of northern provinces or Hue city. At the end of the night market street, next to Dong Xuan market, there is a night eatery with a wide range of food, such as “lau”, grilled food, “banh khuc” and steamed sticky rice.
10. Bat Trang Ceramic Village
Bat Trang, a small village in the north of Vietnam, is about 13 kilometers south east of Hanoi center, on the other side of Chuong Duong bridge. Why is its name popular to most tourists to northern Vietnam? The answer is its ever famous ceramic and pottery products of high quality. If you have known about Vietnam, you may not be surprised that Bat Trang’s vases, bowls, dishes, and many other kinds of ceramic products have been exported worldwide. Should you would like to contemplate workers making ceramic products by hand, just come here! What’s more, you can also try it yourself!
Houses on stilts rested under the shadow of big trees, surrounded by paddy fields. Our curious eyes seemed not to bother the chickens who walked freely on simple bamboo fences. A small cement path led us to houses where we could see how Muong people garden, raise poultry, weave and cook.
The northern province of Hoa Binh has long been home to Muong ethnic people. Although the province is not far from the capital, the Muong culture has many special features that distinguish it from majority Kinh society. Visiting Giang Mo Village, I experienced this culture firsthand.
Set in a valley at the foot of Mo Mountain in Cao Phong District, 85km northwest of Ha Noi and 10km from Hoa Binh City, the village has been a popular tourist destination for more than 20 years.
Walking along the path, I saw children on high bamboo stilts and playing folk games like shuttle throwing. Some of them invited us to try the games. Taking a deep breath of fresh air, I felt as if I had escaped to a more tranquil world.
I stepped inside local Bui Kim Dinh's house, where she told me about Muong gong culture. Showing me a set of 12 gongs symbolising the 12 months of the year, she said each family in the village owned at least one gong handed down through generations. On New Year's Eve, people beat that gong to invite their ancestors to join the festivities.
"Gongs are not simply musical instruments," Dinh said. "People treat them like living bodies with souls and deep understanding." She explained that the gongs are used for various purposes throughout the year. Gongs are beaten when a host welcomes guests to festivals, parties and weddings, and to welcome the new year. A team of women travel throughout the village, singing and beating gongs to wish people a happy new year and ward off bad things, as the long-lasting echo is believed to scare away evil. The gongs also have a utilitarian purpose. When a person in the village wants to build a house, he must gather lots of tree trunks and bamboo. Neighbours work together, using gongs to motivate each other.
Gongs are also used during huntings to scare wild animals. When hunting ends, people beat gongs to announce the victory to the whole village. If the sounds last a long time, the message is that the men caught lots of animals and are inviting people to come enjoy the bounty.
Of course, the gong is also a musical instrument.
"Learning to play the gong is not difficult," she said. "The biggest challenge is for all the gong beaters to work together to create a perfect melody."
Muong cuisine is also fascinating to experience. The tribe used to live in valleys surrounded with lime mountains, near small rivers and streams, so their lives still rely significantly on nature and they remain almost self-sufficient.
Local Bui Thi Luu showed me how to steam rice in a piece of bamboo. The rice was carefully washed, mixed with peanuts and put into a bamboo trunk, which was then covered with a banana leaf and steamed. Muong people steam fish, vegetables and pork in the same way. The method preserves the freshness and sweetness of the ingredients.
Dinh said there was a saying among Muong people: "We show love through words; we show respect through our eating habits." While eating, elder people always sit higher than younger ones, while a guest invited to a cup of wine should drink the whole thing in one go to express his or her sincerity to the hosts.
People tend to serve their food in banana leaves, which are then placed on a bamboo tray, rather than putting them on dishes. Sitting next to the fire and eating from the banana leaves, I felt the essence of forest and mountain, which was added to by a few sips of rice wine infused with leaves from the tro trang tree.
Leaving the village, I was drunk, not only with the special wine, but also with the echo of gongs and aroma of food of this unique culture.
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