Big City Tales

Hanging On and Holding Tight in Hanoi | April 12, 2018

For anyone who has navigated the crowded streets of Hanoi, the sights and sounds of scooters and horns is likely seared in your memory. Gaining the right of way is the object of the traffic game in this bustling city, which often means a lot of darting, weaving and surging to get where you need to be. Yes, hanging on and holding tight go hand-in-hand in Hanoi…good thing that there is much to safely explore on foot!

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Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Located in historic Ba Dinh Square, where the Vietnamese Proclamation of Independence was first read in 1945, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum contains the embalmed body of the country’s beloved ‘Uncle Ho’ and is one of the city’s busiest attractions. The building is constructed of granite, which is considered to be a highly durable material and signifies to Uncle Ho’s devoted followers (many of whom have made a pilgrimage to the site) that he will remain forever with the people.

Not far from the mausoleum are other important political buildings, including the President’s Palace and the National Assembly.

Lakes and Pagodas

Hanoi is sometimes referred to as the ‘City of Lakes’ because of its many scenic lakes that attract both locals and tourists.

Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned or Restored Sword) is one of the most popular destinations due to its historical significance and central location. Legend has it that while Emperor Le Loi was sailing on the lake, a Golden Turtle God surfaced and asked him to relinquish possession of a magical sword.  The sword, named Heaven’s Will, had previously been given to him by the Dragon King, the turtle’s master, and was intended to help Le Loi in his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Le Loi initially refused to part with the sword as he was still at war with the Chinese but eventually did return it once his foe was vanquished. Turtle Tower was constructed on a small island in the middle of the lake to mark the importance of this legend.

Another interesting landmark on Hoan Kiem Lake is the Huc Bridge that links the lake to Jade Island where a temple honouring a 13th century military leader stands. The Huc Bridge is constructed of wood and its name means Morning Sunlight Bridge; although it also looks pretty good all lit up at night.

Along with lakes, traditional pagodas can be found around Hanoi. Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of the oldest and best maintained with its bright orange bricks that pop against the lush tropical plants situated at its base. Other pagodas of note are Tay Ho Pagoda located on West Lake and One Pillar Pagoda that sits on a single stone pillar and has the appearance of a lotus blossom.

Mobile Markets

Famous for its street markets that offer a plethora of knock-off designer goods, Hanoi also has its fair share of mobile merchants that serve up luscious tropical fruits and other fresh goodies from bicycle baskets and boat decks. Yum yum for the tum tum!

Arts and Crafts

Many Hanoians are gifted artisans and take great pride in producing traditional arts and crafts such as hand-painted pots and figurines depicted in national dress.

Other specialties include silk items and silver goods. Hang Gai Street, also known as Silk Street, is the place to head for quality scarves, dresses and home furnishings; while Hang Bac Street (Silver Street) is where to go for inexpensive silver jewellery. Shoe lovers will want to check out Hang Dau Street where it’s nothing but shoe shops as far as the eye can see.

Hang On and Hold Tight

Getting around Hanoi may strike some as a harrowing experience, but if you hang on and hold tight the city promises to reward you with an amazing display of history, nature, shopping and art.

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