Since the first moment when a traveller arrives in Hanoi, he is surprised by the contrast of a new and old city. It’s one of the most attractive and harmonious cities in Asia. There are many attractive places such as the Ancient Quarter, Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda, parks, lakes...
Photos and Text by Antonio De Cara.
Translated by Joel
Hanoi is the starting point for many tours in Vietnam:
Halong Bay (World Heritage Site) although it is overcrowded there are interesting boat trips to do, staying in one of this boats can be a memorable experience specially by night looking at the stars.
Visit the Perfume’s Pagoda a place of indescribable beauty also travelling through spectacular scenery to Tam-Coc and Hoa-Lu.
Hanoi can be also the base for another type of journey if you want to enjoy places like Sapa and surrounding mountains with its ethnic riches. Note that travelling by road and communications in Vietnam are off different standards, but they are improving day by day.
It’s worth visiting the city of Hue, although it was destroyed by the United States troops, today it is almost rebuilt. The wall of the Ancient City is the only reminder of the Imperial City (similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing) since the ruins were devastated by the US B-52 and tanks. Around the town there are several emperor tombs which reign there.
Three hours away to the south you’ll find Danang, it was a headquarter for French and Americans and is today a strong and lively city. Also there you can visit the Marble Mountains which are a pilgrimage place with splendid views over the China Beach.
30 km away you’ll reach Hoi An, this city had better luck and it has still its old Chinese quarter that also has some Japanese, Portuguese and French influence, it’s worth to stay in this place for a couple of relaxing days. Tourism is developing there with many hotels, restaurants and services for travellers.
We cannot say so about My Son, the famous Chan ruins with Indian influence, almost destroyed also after the raids.
A part from the well known war tunnels of Vinh Moc if you are interested in Historical Tourism visit the Hoo Chi Minh trail in the A Luoi mountains although some access roads were destroyed by chemical raids the tomb remains intact surrounded by natural beauty. Local Paku and Cato tribes are very interesting for ethnic reasons.
Thanks to Cuban consulting a new road is being built over the old provisioning path of Viet Cong troops, this will provide better communications and development for the country.
Practical advice :
Changing Euro in Banks (some hotels don’t accept this currency).
Always barter, Vietnamese always tend to double price everything.
Restaurants, hotels and tourist services are improving.
No risks - very secure country.
Try to travel now, in a few years there will be plenty of tourists.
Recommended Hotels: Hanoi - Camellie (in ancient quarter, do not pay more than 12$ by room)
Hue - Thai Binh (new building, central and clean, bargain until 10$ maximum)
Travel Agencies : ODC Travel - its excursions and tours are well organised, with good guides but poor picnic pack, they have a web page.