Ha Noi - Culture & Sightseeing

Date Links: Sun 29/05 │ Mon 30/05 & Thur 02/06 │ Fri 03/06

Accommodation: Golden Sun Lakeview Hotel & Golden Sun Lakeview Hotel II

87 Ma May -

The traditional houses of the Old Quarter are a huge part of the neighbourhood's appeal, but you'll rarely have an opportunity to see beyond their shop fronts. Here, you can - this house is a beauty, lovingly restored and frozen in its late-19th-century condition. The woodwork upstairs is particularly impressive, and it's surprising to see how effectively the courtyard creates an open, livable space.

Ambassadors' Pagoda -

HQ for the Vietnam Buddhist Association, Quan Su is one of the city's busiest houses of prayer. It's especially active on the first and 15th days of the lunar month, when even casual Buddhists come to make an offering. On your way in buy some incense from a pavement vendor, then light them and poke them into the courtyard urns.

Metropole Hotel -

The 1953 Citroën parked in front of Hanoi's legendary Metropole says it all, for behind the hotel's wedding-cake exterior you'd never know the French got their rumps kicked at Dien Bien Phu (in 1954). When it opened in 1901, this was one of the classiest hotels in all of Asia. It still oozes colonial extravagance. Take a look around, and have an exotic cocktail at the Bamboo Bar.

Ngoc Son Temple -

This island-temple, towards the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, is worth a detour - it can be reached via a picturesque footbridge. Inside, look for the preserved remains of a giant turtle, measuring 2.1m, that was captured in the lake. The temple was founded in the 14th century, although its buildings date from the 18th.

Night Market -

The outdoor Night Market is very different from workaday Dong Xuan, mostly because it's more of a social event. Locals stroll the streets shoulder-to-shoulder, perusing inexpensive goods sold at the lighted stalls. It's fun and colourful, and definitely not about the shopping.

Quan Thanh Temple -

This temple has a lovely setting, removed from the street by a spacious courtyard. The real attraction here is the 4000kg statue of Huyen Thien Tran Vo, whose giant toenails have been polished by adoring hands for centuries. The statue is lacquered bronze, made in 1677. The temple is on the shore of Truc Bach Lake.

Tran Quoc Pagoda -

On the eastern shore of West Lake, this is one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam. The current structures are very impressive and date back to 1842. The pagoda is just off the road that divides West Lake and Truc Bach Lake.

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