Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital, but the title of the largest city goes to former Saigon – now Ho Chi Minh. Still, Hanoi boasts with a multi-million population as the city itself is inhabited by 2.6 million people. Furthermore, Hanoi’s metropolitan area is home to more than 7 million citizens as of 2014. During the Vietnamese war, Hanoi used to be the capital of the winning side; Northern Vietnam, hence it also became the capital of the unified country after the year 1976. The city itself was established in 1010 and it recently celebrated a millennium of existence.
For the occasion, a special mural was commissioned. Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural finds itself upon the walls of the dyke system of the city and boasts with a length of around 4 km (2.5 mi). This is the latest addition to the list of city’s touristic attractions, but more on that later.
One of the lessons learned during the Vietnam War was that the depiction of wounded soldiers, of coffins stacked higher than their living guards, had a negative effect on the viewing public. The military in Iraq specifically banned the photographing of wounded soldiers and coffins, thus sanitizing this terrible and bloody conflict.– via Walter Dean Myers
Geographical position and Climate
Hanoi is positioned in the northern part of the country – that much has been established already. It mostly lies on the right bank of the Red River (Sông Hồng) which, like the city itself, is the country’s second-largest river (after the Mekong). All of Vietnam, Hanoi including, is south of the Tropic of Cancer. This puts the entire country into Torrid climate zone’s hands, thus making it hot throughout the year. To make matters worse, most of Vietnam is humid with year humidity averaging 84 percent.
However, the climate is quite diverse thanks to different types of elevations and other microclimatic factors. Hanoi itself exhibits the elements of warm humid subtropical climate which promises a lot of precipitation. Around 1,676 mm of rain falls on every square meter of Hanoi’s ground which translates to 66 inches of rain. Of 365 days in a year, 145 days tend to be rainy which goes hand-in-hand with an average relative humidity of almost 79 percent. The average annual temperature is high as well, reaching 27 degrees Celsius or 81 degrees Fahrenheit. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of 19 °C or 67 °F, while July is the hottest month with average temperature reaching 33 °C or 91 °F.
With that in mind, you’ll likely want to skip visiting Hanoi-Vietnam during the summer when both temperatures and precipitation are unbearable. Autumn is your best option when both these categories are in decline, while cooler and dry winter doesn’t necessarily have to be bad as well – if you like fog and lack of sunshine, that is.
Hanoi – a tourist attraction
As far as tourist attractions in Hanoi-Vietnam go, let us start with the aforementioned mural. Not only that this represents a pinnacle of artistic creation, but a Guinness record for the world’s largest ceramic mosaic as well. It stretches along the road which divides Hanoi’s Old Quarter from the West Lake (Hồ Tây) and you won’t have to stroll too far away from the city center in order to get to it. Sadly, most people will agree that the mural is being looked after very poorly and restorations have already gone underway, only five years after it was finished.
West Lake is another (this time natural) landmark which you can’t afford to miss while in Vietnam’s capital. It features no less than 17 km (10.5 mi) of shore length which is a testament of its size and attractiveness by itself. Such a vast surface area holds within itself quite a few attractions besides only being a favorite recreation area. The most prominent of these is Trấn Quốc Pagoda which is the oldest Hanoi’s pagoda at the same time. It was built during the mid-sixth century which makes it almost 1500 years old by now. What’s even more impressive is its actual location.
It wasn’t initially built there, but after the 1615 relocation, it is found on an island in the lake’s south-eastern corner. That’s where another temple is located as well. Quán Thánh Temple (Holy Mandarin) is one of four sacred Taoist temples of Hanoi. This is the northern temple with others being as following (clockwise): Bạch Mã (White Horse) in the east, Kim Liên to the south and Voi Phục (Kneeling Elephant) to the west.
Old Quarter is the hub of tourist activities in Hanoi-Vietnam. It is riddled with various landmarks, shops, restaurants, bars, and other places well worth the visit. Narrow, busy streets practically call for a cyclo rental which might be the easiest way to navigate them in quick fashion. But leave some for walking as well as experience is quite different that way. There are a certain must-do’s while you’re in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and things like trying local vendor’s food, drinking local Bia Hoi beer and indulging your curiosity at the Dong Xuan market should be at the top of your list. Water puppet’s show is yet another spectacle that you can participate in, in one of Old Quarter’s narrow streets.
While you are treading your way through the streets of Hanoi-Vietnam, you’ll eventually stumble upon numerous museums that this vibrant city has to offer, of which Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Museum of Anthropology, Hoa Lo Prison and Vietnamese Women’s Museum might be the most visit-worthy of all.
Landmarks and Places to visit
As far as other Hanoi landmarks go, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and his Presidential Palace Historical Site -latter of which, sadly, can’t be seen from the inside. Still, the palace is a marvel to behold and mausoleum’s long queues speak for themselves. St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Nha Tho Lon) is one of the city’s most prominent remnants of the colonial past. If you’re up for a mass, there’s one on French every Sunday at 11 AM. Hanoi Old Citadel (Northern Gate) is free of entrance fees and offers a fine view from its top.
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is also worth the visit and serves as a place where you can easily discover all of Vietnam’s historical periods. Finally, don’t forget to take a walk over the Long Bien Bridge which spans across the Red River. You’ll see it in disrepair, just like most of the buildings across the city, but Long Bien wouldn’t crumble beneath the bombs and it certainly won’t crumble beneath your weight – so, no worries there.
Top Reasons to Go to Vietnam
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