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Hanoi is an old city with rich culture and history. Although the city is quite big but the old quarter is where all the action is. For the same reason it is also best that you stay in Old Quarters itself during your Hanoi trip.
Here is the list of top things to do in Hanoi:
1. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
Located near the famous Hoan Kiem lake is the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. It developed in the Red River Delta area as a form of entertainment in the rural areas. Interestingly, the traditional shows played during the festivals were held in rice paddy fields.
Come here for a beautiful evening filled with music and traditional Vietnamese puppet show. The performance lasts for one hour. Grab the front seat for best views as viewing the small puppets from a distance could be a challenge. The ticket for the Thang Long Water Puppet show costs about U.S. $10
2. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
You know Vietnam is a communist country? Right? Well, if you don’t I suggest you do a homework in Vietnam’s history. It’s a s fascinating (and unfortunately troublesome) as the country itself.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, located in Ba Dinh square, is the tomb (not in a true sense) or rather a resting place of the legendary Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh.
Did you know Ho Chi Minh city was called Saigon earlier?
The marble building is rather plain but quite inspiring from inside. Inside the mausoleum you will find the embalmed body of the leader on display in a glass casing. Combine this site with War Remnants Museum and the Independence Palace place in Ho Chi Minh city to complete the Vietnamese history lesson.
Before you visit, remember there he is a highly revered figure in Vietnam and hence there is a very strict dress code, full sleeves and ankle length dress to get in.
Within the same complex you will also find Ho chi minh museum which keeps a collection of Ho Chi Minh’s personal artefacts, and items depicting the history of the Vietnamese Revolution.
3. Hanoi Hilton aka Hoa Lo Prison
The Hoa Lo prison was built under the French rule to house the Vietnamese political prisoners. The same prison, during the Vietnam War, was used by North Vietnamese Army to keep the prisoners of war.
The prison is now turned into a museum and is a quite popular tourist attraction in Hanoi. Senator John McCain comes at the top among its celebrity prisoners.
4. Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Hanoi Old Quarter Market
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a jumble of narrow street criss crossing each other at every possible angle. Here you will still see the remnants of the French Colonial architecture along with old temples. Old quarter is located quite close to the Hoan Kiem Lake, and you can simply between the two.
Not surprisingly Old quarter of Hanoi is a buzzing backpacker’s place with several hostel options to choose from.
5. Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake also known as the lake of the returned sword, is located right in the heart of Hanoi.
Perhaps the most famous landmark associated with the Hoan Kiem lake is the Jade island. Is is on this small piece of land is located the eighteenth century Temple of the Jade Mountain. You can easily get to the island via the beautifully red-painted Morning Sunlight Bridge.
Come to the lake in the evening and will be entertained with a no. of street artists performing on the street nearby.
6. Fine Art Museum
Consider fine art museum a hidden gem of Hanoi, reason being tourists are so busy taking day trips and visiting the popular attractions like the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh that only a handful of them actually make a visit to this museum.
The Hanoi fine art museum is rich in history, look out for the terracotta and stone sculptures belonging to the Tran and Champa period. On display are also the Buddha statues from the rule of Mac and Le dynasties.
But what takes the cake is the famous statue of the goddess Guan Yin. The goddess with 1000 arms and 1000 eyes is considered as the goddess of compassion. The marvelous statue depicts Guan Yin in full glory with several of her arms. I admit the statue looks quite like the Hindu Goddess Kali.
Also, worth checking out are the folk painting from the previous centenary and abstract works from the present century. The admission ticket costs 30,000 VND, which by any standard a very cheap bargain. Website: http://www.vnfam.vn