Tuesday, 6 March 2012 11:17 AM
If you're itching to discover the rich culture of Vietnam, do so by rail. Travelling by train allows you to see a variety of destinations in one trip with ease, including its bustling capital, Hanoi. Read our guide to discover the top places to visit in this fascinating city.
Situated in the centre of north Vietnam on the Red River Delta, Hanoi is an amazing place to experience. Mixing ancient buildings, tradition and culture with the hubbub of modern Asia, it plays host to a wealth of attractions just waiting to be discovered on Vietnam tours.
Visit the Old Quarter
A bustling centre of commerce for close to 1,000 years, the city's Old Quarter remains as essential a place to visit as ever. Tourists flock here to get a real taste of the city, and it's particularly well known for its fabulous historic architecture.
Often, you won't actually be able to see inside these traditional houses - but there are a few exceptions. Head to 87 Pho Ma May, for example, and you'll have a chance to explore the interior, which has been preserved as it was in the 19th century. Whether you choose to head inside a traditional-style home or simply make your way around the streets, no visit to Hanoi is complete without visiting the Old Quarter.
Hoan Kiem Lake
This is another must-see, being at the very heart of the city. A real focal point for local life, it is one of the most picturesque spots of Hanoi, which residents and visitors alike flock to.
Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and house
Undoubtedly among the city's most-visited sites, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum is bound to be on your itinerary. This imposing building is made from materials sourced from around the country over a number of years and, for most of the year, the former leader's body can be seen in a glass sarcophagus within. However, bear in mind that for a few months annually the body is absent for preservation reasons.
Whether you want to explore inside or just admire its exterior, it is a must-see that should be on everyone's to-do list. What's more, if you head behind the mausoleum itself, you'll find a stilt house created in the traditional style, where Ho Chi Minh lived. It is unclear how much time he spent here, but between 1958 and 1969 it was his home, and it has been preserved how he left it.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Puppets are deeply ingrained in traditional Vietnamese culture, and nobody should end their visit to the country without seeing a water puppet performance. In Hanoi, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is the best place to go. Each show is accompanied by an orchestra and, as performances are popular, it is worth reserving a seat in advance to make sure you get a good view.
One Pillar Pagoda
Hanoi is home to numerous pagodas worth visiting, and among the most popular is One Pillar Pagoda. Dating back to the 11th century, the building was constructed by Emperor Ly Thai Tong. It is believed that it was built as a means of saying thank you for the birth of his son, which occurred after a dream that the Goddess of Mercy handed him a male baby.
Made of wood, the temple was built on a single stone pillar and was designed to resemble a lotus blossom. Centuries old, it was damaged by French Union Forces in the 1950s and rebuilt, but it remains one of the most important temples in the city.
Temple of Literature
Another excellent place to visit during your time in the city is the Temple of Literature, particularly because it is such a good example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Indeed, part of its appeal lies in just how well it is preserved. Situated just 2 km away from Hoan Kiem Lake, it is a good place to visit after seeing this scenic spot.
If you're eager to start planning your break in Vietnam, companies like Great Rail Journeys can help you to do so.
Enjoying plenty of different options, you can select a pre-established itinerary or a tailor-made holiday, depending on what exactly you are hoping to get out of your break.