Hanoi, is the capital city of Vietnam, is located in Northern Vietnam. With a population of over 8 million, the first thing you'll notice is the 5 million motorcycles. They're everywhere, taking up every square inch of the streets, and making for a crazy game of human Frogger when you want to cross the street. In time though, they become part of this city's charm. We also loved the evenings when the City came out on the streets to eat, enjoy music, and night markets. As Americans, Hanoi is also particularly interesting given it's part in the Vietnam War. Many times throughout our time in Hanoi, we were presented with a different take on our joint history. Nowhere is this more prominent than at the Hỏa Lò Prison, aka "Hanoi Hilton."
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Vietnam's revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, is laid to rest here. Due to the heat that day, we did not stay very long but be sure to watch the changing of the military honor guard. Dress code (long skirts, shawls, long pants) is strictly enforced.
Trấn Quốc Pagoda: Trấn Quốc Pagoda, built in the 6th Century, is the oldest Pagoda in Hanoi. (photo at top of page; gentlemen in Pagoda park [right])
Temple of Literature: The Imperial Academy opened in the early 11th Century. This first national university in Vietnam has a fascinating history and is worth viewing with a knowledgeable guide.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: Make a relatively quick stop at this museum to learn about the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. Honestly (and regrettably), we had no idea. The layout is noteworthy in that the exhibit also includes full-size traditional houses you can walk through.
Vietnam Military Museum: Make another quick stop at this Museum to learn Vietnam's military history. The museum includes decommissioned planes and other military equipment, as well as a detailed history of the Vietnam War.
Hỏa Lò Prison, aka "Hanoi Hilton": An essential stop while in Hanoi, this prison that housed the late Senator John McCain during his POW years, has been converted to a museum. Consistent with our other Hanoi experiences, the prison was filled with pro-Vietnam propaganda, including a quite different description of Senator McCain's 5 1/2 year imprisonment.
Where We Stayed
Hanoi Marvelous Hotel & Spa: Our Vietnamese friend advised us against using an Air B&B in Hanoi. We don't know the accuracy of this tip but we nonetheless took her advice and found this hotel on Expedia. This truly marvelous place ended up being our favorite lodging on this trip. Great location and rooms but most importantly, amazing customer service. Large breakfast included. $181/night for family of four, included 2 separate bedrooms with adjoining private access hallway between rooms. Neighborhood photos (right).
Where We Ate
Cafe Giảng: Egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty, was developed during a milk shortage in the 1940s. This particular Cafe, we were told, has the best egg coffee in the City. We didn't visit others but agree that this was a surprisingly tasty treat.
Rice Bistro: We stumbled across this restaurant near our hotel because they had remained open late. Excellent, flavorful Vietnamese meals. Fresh ingredients and reasonably priced. (no photos, just a turtle on the street [right] for fun).