Hotel business booming on surging demand

Good morning Hanoi

Broad boulevards lined with buildings of French-inspired architecture, little roadside galleries filled with artwork, charming people in native hats and dress mixing with people wearing the latest fashions are what awaits those on a Vietnam tour of Hanoi, the city known as the cultural capital.

Hanoi, the country's second largest city (with a population of six million and covering 900 square km on the banks of the Red River), is said to be the heart and soul of the country- something easily proven by a walk through the streets of this French-colonial city with its lakes and temples. Readily navigable on foot, there is a lot to see and do here at an easy pace; start your Vietnam tour from Hanoi and you will certainly feel the strong sense of laid-back tranquillity that only a timelessly old settlement can have.

Dating back as early as three centuries before Christ, Hanoi was previously known as Thang Long, and was renamed Hanoi in 1831 at a time when Hue was the capital. Present-day Hanoi, however, was largely built during the French occupation- a fact reflected in broad streets and charming French inspired buildings that are characteristic of the city.

Old Quarter
Hoan Kiem District (aka the Old Quarter), considered the city's business hub and main tourist destination, is perhaps the most definitive of Hanoi. A walk through the area is tantamount to stepping back in time - its streets are filled with scooters, traders and people simply out for a leisurely stroll in the park. Here, there are ancient commercial streets named after their original businesses dating back about 1,000 years, including names of cotton, jewellery, herbs, and silk. While many of these concerns have been replaced with more modern businesses, once can still appreciate the sense of how it was a long time ago, and gain a sense of rich, old customs. Preserved shop-houses built a little over a century ago with street-facing façades and multiple courtyards inside are now side by side with hip cafés, bars, restaurants, bakeries, boutique shops and art galleries.

Places to Visit
Ho Chi Minh, the country's most popular leader (known to his people as 'Uncle Ho') rests here in a glass case at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in central Hanoi (albeit against his wishes). A trip to Uncle Ho's final resting place can be an extraordinary experience on a Vietnam tour- after all, it is not just an average attraction, it's a part of a nation's history. For those visiting, it would do well to remember the reverence the locals have for Uncle Ho-dress with respect (no shorts, sleeveless shirts and miniskirts) and everyone has to deposit their bags and cameras before going in.

The world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi is a performance art rooted in a tradition dating back to the 11th century, from a time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers would make entertainment by standing in the waist-deep water with the puppets performing over the water. Large rods to support the puppets appeared as if they were moving across the water, with the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. They would tell traditional folk stories through operatic songs, accompanied by an orchestra playing traditional music using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. Today, the tradition continues.

Other must-see places while in Hanoi on your Vietnam tour are The Temple of Literature, The Perfume Pagoda, One Pillar Pagoda, Ngoc Son and Hoan Kiem lake - as well as the various museums, markets, zoo and more. | Vietnam tours | Vietnam travel

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Hotel business booming on surging demand