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The ancient meandering streets of the Old Quarter are each named after the crafts and speciality trades traditionally practised by the original artisan's guilds in the 15th century. Each guild was grouped around a temple, or dinh, dedicated to the particular beliefs of the village from where the guild originated, and many of these temples are open to the public today. The early merchant's quarter affords an intriguing glimpse into life centuries ago with covered markets, and the ancient narrow buildings that still line the streets, known as tube or tunnel houses that contained shops. Businesses were taxed according to the width of their storefront and resulted in shops only seven foot (2m) wide with a series of storerooms, workshops and living quarters extending behind to a length of up to 197ft (60m). Many streets are still devoted to a predominant trade such as silks, religious objects or textiles, silver jewellery, antiques, and there are numerous art galleries and craft stores, as well as cafes and pavement restaurants lining the streets. Traffic within the Old Quarter is a chaotic mix of bicycles, motorbikes and pedestrians passing noisily down the narrow streets and shady alleyways.
Address: Hoan Kiem District
Ba Dinh Square was where, in 1945, Ho Chi Minh read out the Declaration of Independence and where independence is celebrated each year. Dominating the west side is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where the embalmed body of the 'father of the modern state', 'liberator of the
Vietnamese people' and beloved public figure is displayed. The body of Ho Chi Minh is enclosed in a glass case, the traditional way to honour famous communist leaders. Security is tight, there is a strict dress code and it is imperative to maintain a respectful demeanor while inside. Nearby is the Ho Chi Minh Museum that commemorates his life, housing a collection of military orders, correspondence, manifestos and photographs that illustrates the crucial role he had in the country's history.
Address: Hung Vuong and Le Hong Phong Streets, Ba Dinh Square; Telephone: (04) 845 5128; Transport: Cyclo from the centre; Opening time: Open from Tuesday to Thursday between 7.30am and 10.30am (8am to 11am in winter), and weekends from 7.30am to 11am (8am to 11.30am in winter); closed on Mondays and Fridays. The mausoleum is closed for two months of the year, usually October and November, when Ho Chi Minh’s body goes to Russia for maintenance; Admission: Free, but a donation is expected
One Pillar Pagoda was constructed to celebrate the tale of the heirless Emperor Ly Thai Tong, who dreamt about receiving a son from the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion, seated on a lotus flower. He married shortly after and bore a son, and the pagoda was built to honour the event. It is the most interesting of the city's numerous pagodas, and beneath the ornate curved roof people come to pray for fertility and wellbeing, with allegedly miraculous effects. The unique wooden structure was designed to resemble a lotus flower, the Buddhist representation of enlightenment, emerging out of the water, with the single stone pillar its symbolic stalk.
Address: Ong Ich Kiem Street, Ba Dinh District; Admission: Free, but a donation is expected
The Temple of Literature is Vietnam's historical seat of learning and is the most sacred place for the disciples of Confucius. It is one of the few remaining buildings from the original city founded by Emperor Ly Thanth Tong in the 11th century and is a well-preserved example of Vietnamese architecture. It became the site of the country's first university in 1076. Consisting of a complex of small buildings and five walled courtyards, it was an exclusive establishment teaching the principles of Confucius. Over a period of 900 years thousands of Vietnamese scholars graduated from the university. In the third courtyard is a pond, the Well of Heavenly Clarity, and beside it are 82 stone stelae, mounted on tortoises and engraved with the names of successful graduates. There is also a temple dedicated to Confucius and an altar where the king and his mandarins would make sacrifices.
Address: 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Dong Da District; Telephone: (04) 845 2917; Opening time: Open daily from 7.30am to 6pm (summer), and 8am to 5pm (winter); Admission: 12,000d, and 20,000d for an English-speaking guide
Chua Quan Su (Quan Su Pagoda) was built in the 17th century. It is located in the street of the same name. Since 1958, Vietnam Buddhism Association has used this pagoda as its head office.
Den Quan Thanh (Quan Thanh Temple) : The three ancient Chinese characters which are still seen today on the top of the entrance to the temple mean Tran Vu Quan. Literally, the temple is dedicated to Saint Tran Vu. Temples are places for worshipping saints while pagodas are dedicated to Buddha and faithful disciplines. Saint Tran Vu was a legendary figure which was a combination between a legendary character in Vietnam's legend and a mystic character derived from China's legend. In Vietnam's legend, he was a saint who had earned the merits of assisting Thuc Phan (future King An Duong Vuong) in getting rid of ghost spirit during the construction of CoLoa Citadel. An Duong Vuong Temple in CoLoa Citadel (Dong Anh district) is also named Thuong Temple. Inside it, there are An Duong Vuong's bronze statue (cast in 1897) and a big arbalest symbolizing the magic arbalest in the old days. In China's legend, Saint Tran Vu was a saint who had made many contributions in safeguarding the northern border. Quan Th¸nh Temple was built during the reign of King LưThai To (1010-1028). Special attention should be paid to the black bronze statue of Saint Tran Vu. Another object of no less significance is a smaller black bronze statue of Old Trong, a chief artisan of the bronze casting team who had made the giant statue of Saint Tran Vu and the great bell on top of the entrance.
Address: Thanh Nien road, Truc Bach, Ba Dinh district, Hanoi. Opening time ; Opening time: Open daily from 7.30am to 6pm (summer), and 8am to 5pm (winter); Admission: 2,000d
* Den Ngoc Son (Ngoc Son Temple) : Initially, the temple was called Ngoc Son Pagoda. Later, it was renamed as Ngoc Son Temple, because it was dedicated to the saints. Saint Van Xuong was a person considered the brightest star in Vietnam's literature and intellectual circles. Tran Hung Dao was worshipped because he was the national hero who led the Vietnamese people to a resounding victory over the Mongol aggression. The temple as it is seen today was attributable to the restoration efforts of Nguyen Van Sieu, a great Hanoian writer. He had a large pen-shaped tower (Thap But) built at the entrance to the temple
On the upper section of Thap But, there are three Chinese characters Ta Thanh Thien which mean literally that to write on the blue sky is to imply the height of a genuine and righteous person's determination and will. Behind Thap But is Dai Nghien (Ink Stand). The Ink Stand is carved from stone resembling a peach, which is placed on the back of three frogs on top of the gate to the temple. Passing through Dai Nghien, visitors will tread on the wooden bridge called The Huc. The Huc is literally understood as the place where beams of morning sunshine are touching.
Besides, Ha Noi has such attractions as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum, History Museum, Revolution Museum, Army Museum, Fine Arts Museum, Palace of Friendship....
Address: Dinh Tien Hoang street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi . Opening time: Open daily from 7.30am to 6pm (summer), and 8am to 5pm (winter); Admission:3000dong.
Den Hai Ba Trung (Hai Ba Trung Temple) is also called Dong Nhan Temple, because it is located in Dong Nhan village, Hai Ba Trung precinct. Built in 1142 under the reign of King Lư Anh Ton, it is dedicated to the two Vietnamese heroines Trung Trac and Trung Nhi. On the 5th and 6th days of the lunar second month , there is a grand festival at this temple to commemorate the two national heroines.
HoTay (West Lake) &Duong Thanh Nien (Youth Road) : Youth Road can be compared to a beautiful bridge spanning across the two large bodies of water - West Lake to the northwest and Truc Bach Lake to the southeast. Covering an area of nearly 500 hectares, Ho Tay was also called Dam Dam (Misty Pond), Lang Bac (White Waves)...
.Oral tradition has it that HoTay derived from a low-lying area upturned by a golden buffalo, so the stream derived from Ho Tay was named Song Kim Nguu (Golden Buffalo River). As for Truc Bach Lake, legend has it that in the old days, Truc Bach Lake was where lived the abandoned ladies-in-waiting who were forced to weave silk. Therefore, beautiful silk was called Truc Bach (Silk of the Truc village). As the biggest lake in the city, HoTay is surrounded by many areas reputed for their traditional occupations :Yen Phu and Nghi Tam (silkworm-breeding and silk-weaving villages in the past), Quang Ba, Nhat Tan (peach-growing village), Buoi (paper-making village). In Tay Son times, Nguyen Huy Luong wrote Tông Tay Ho Phó (Eulogy for West Lake) so as to highlight the landscapes of the West Lake and Nguyen Hue (future Quang Trung)'s glorious merits. Now, Ho Tay has been earmarked for the city's major tourism development center.
Address: Tay Ho district, Hanoi
* Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of Restored Sword) : The name of this lake is derived from a legend having it that a fisherman named LeThan caught a sword blade when drawing the fish-net. Than decided to offer it to his commanding general Le Loi (future Le Thai To). Afterwards, LeLoi found a hilt fitting that blade very well. This sword had always been on his side during 10 years of resistance against Ming aggressors. After winning over the foreign aggression, King Le Thai To returned to Thang Long Citadel .One day, aboard a royal boat, he took a cruise in the Luc Thuy lake. Suddenly, a giant turtle emerged and came towards him. The king withdrew his sword, and pinpointed with the sword the direction of the coming turtle for his soldiers' attention.
All of a sudden, the turtle caught the sword between its teeth from the king's hand and submerged. The king thought that during the resistance against Ming aggressors, the genius had offered him this sword to help him defeat the enemy. At that time, the peace was returning, and the genius appeared to take back the sword. Consequently, King Le Thai To decided to name the Luc Thuy lake Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of Restored Sword). In the middle of the lake is Thap Rua (Turtle Tower). The lake abounds in big turtles aged five or six hundred. When there are the changes in weather, they often emerge or expose themselves at the foot of the Turtle Temple
Address: Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
If you're interested in learning more about the 53 ethnic minorities populating Vietnam's hinterlands, make the jaunt out to this sprawling compound (go by cab). Vietnam's different ethnic groups, their history, and customs are explained in photos, videos, and displays of clothing and daily implements. Out back are a number of re-creations of the village homes, from a low Cham house to the towering peak of a thatched Banhar communal home. You come away with a good historical perspective on the many groups you meet in the far north and in parts of neighboring Laos and Thailand.
Address: Nguyen Van Huyen street, Cau Giay District; ; Opening time: Open daily from 8.00am to 5pm (close on Monday) , Admission: 20,000 dong.
For sheer gruesome atmosphere alone, this ranks near the top of the must-see list. It was constructed by the French in 1896 mainly to house political prisoners, and the Vietnamese took it over in 1954. It was subsequently used to house prisoners of war. From 1964 to 1973, it was a major POW detention facility. U.S. senator John McCain was a particularly famous inmate, as was Pete Peterson, the ambassador to Vietnam, and Lieutenant Everett Alvarez, officially the first American pilot to be shot down over Vietnam. Their stories are told from the Vietnamese perspective in photographs and writings grouped in one small room. To the west is the guillotine room, still with its original equipment, and the female and Vietnamese political prisoners' quarters. The courtyard linking the two has parts of original tunnels once used by a hundred intrepid Vietnamese revolutionaries to escape in 1945. Only part of the original complex is left; the rest of the original site was razed and is ironically occupied by a tall, gleaming office complex popular with foreign investors. There are basic English explanations, but this is a good spot to have a guide, who is certain to be armed with a tale or two.
Address: N1 Hoa Lo street, Hai Ba Trung District; ; Opening time: Open daily from 8.00am to 11.30 am : afternoon 1.30 pm to 5 pm) , Admission: 5,000 dong.
This is an exhaustive repository of Vietnamese ancient and historical relics nicely displayed with some bare-bones explanations in English. Housed in a building that was the French consulate until 1910 and a museum in various incarnations since, this collection walks you from prehistoric artifacts and carvings to funerary jars and some very fine examples of Dong Son drums from the north, excavations of Han tombs, Buddhist statuary, and everyday items of early history. It's the kind of place where schoolchildren are forced to go (and be careful if you see buses out front), and for anyone but history buffs, you might feel just as bored as the kids. For those on any kind of historical mission in Vietnam, I recommend contacting a tour agency and booking a knowledgeable guide for an excellent overview and a good beginning to any trip.
Address: 1 Trang Tien street, Hoan Kiem District; ; Opening time: Open daily from 8.00am to 5 pm) , Admission: 15,000 dong.( museum close on Sunday and Friday)
This very worthwhile arts museum features Vietnamese art of the 20th century, up to the 1970s or so. While the presentations are a bit crowded and rustic, there are explanations in English. Much of the art is outstanding, although you won't really see any works of an innovative or controversial nature. Entire rooms are devoted to the Vietnamese style of lacquer and silk painting, woodblock, and folk art. Techniques are explained -- a nice touch. Interesting also are the modern works of wood statuary interspersed among the exhibits. Some are patriotic in nature, depicting daily life or events during the war or done in Soviet-influenced caricature with heavy-limbed peasants striking triumphant poses or depictions of the brotherhood of the army and the working class. The top floors are devoted to prehistoric artifacts and Buddhist sculptures, some of which are huge and impressive. Don't miss the famous 11th-century goddess of mercy (Kouan Yin), with her thousand arms and eyes, in the far-left room on the second floor. Best of all, the museum itself is in an old colonial, and, unless there's a tour group milling around, you can stroll around in relative serenity and rest on one of the many benches provided (no napping). The gift shop has some modern works of well-known artists for sale.
Address: 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street street, Hai Ba Trung District; ; Opening time: Open daily from 8.00am to 5 pm) , Admission: 20,000 dong.( museum close on Sunday and Friday)
The revolution will not be televised, however, afterward we'll have lots of old beat-up museums that celebrate the ongoing class struggle and inevitable triumph of a unified proletariat over the running dog bourgeoisie capitalists and their elitist, oppressive schemes to keep the common man in chains. Or so runs the old party line. What is best about the Revolutionary Museum is that it's a little run-down, a telling sign of where the nation's revolutionary zeal has gone in the wake of a booming capitalist economy. Uncle Ho's ideas were quickly lost in the shuffle when affordable motorbikes and TVs came on the scene. But to the elder generation of Vietnamese, the 50% who were born before 1975 and experienced Vietnam's great struggle, places like the Revolutionary Museum are important reminders of the legacy. The revolution that started with Ho Chi Minh is celebrated now less with socialism in mind than with celebrating the nation's hard-fought autonomy. The museum houses an interesting collection of photos and memorabilia not only chronicling the life and ascendancy of Nguyen Tat Thanh, otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh, but of the many early revolutions at the turn of the 20th century. Oil paintings retell the struggles and, literally, paint a grisly picture of life in colonial jails on Con Dao Island or Phu Quoc Island in the south. The museum route starts on the first floor with the 1945 August Revolution, photos and relics of victory at Dien Bien Phu, good background on the conflict with the United States, and the obligatory color photos of a prosperous Communist Vietnam as the revolutionaries envisioned. Party rhetoric is heavy here, and a big part of the allure of trundling around these big halls (once a French administrative building) is looking for words like "running dog" and finding artifacts like an old Budweiser can that was bent into a lantern for Viet Cong troops. Fun if you're a war buff.
Address: 26 Tran Quang Khai street, Hoan Kiem District; ; Opening time: Open daily from 8.00am to 5 pm) , Admission: 15,000 dong.( museum close on Sunday and Friday)
Shows are thrice daily at 4.15, 5:15, 6:15, and 8pm. This might sound like one for the kids, but there is something enchanting about the lighthearted comedy and intricately skilled puppetry of this troupe. They perform numerous vignettes of daily life in the countryside and ancient tales, including the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake and the peaceful founding of the city of Hanoi. Puppeteers use bamboo poles to extend their puppets from behind the proscenium and up through the surface of a small pond that forms the stage. You will be amazed at their ingenuity, and it doesn't take much to suspend disbelief and get caught up in a magical hour of escape. The kids will like it, too. Buy tickets early in the high season. The theater is poorly raked, and that means that, though seats in the front cost a bit more, you'll have a better view -- and not look at the back of someone's head -- from the middle or the back (pick from a seating chart at the ticket office). You also get a better effect of verisimilitude from the back (it looks more real).
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang street, Hoan Kiem District; ; Opening time: everyday with 3 shows at 4.15 pm, 5,15pm, 6.15pm (1 hours each show), Admission: 20,000 to 40,000dong.