Vietnam: 6 Reasons to Visit the Old Quarter in Hanoi

The Old Quarter area is the oldest area in Hanoi. It the city’s economic center and main tourist destination. It is in the heart of everything – history, architecture, old buildings, tourist attractions, shopping malls, sightseeing venues, hotels, restaurants, markets (night market and regular market), parks, and many more. Without the Old Quarter area, Hanoi wouldn’t be the same.

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Interesting place with lots to look at and eat

Here are 6 reasons on why experiencing and exploring the historical Old Quarter area in Hanoi is a must-do and truly well worth it:

1.Many major attractionsMost of the major attractions in Hanoi are located within or nearby the Old Quarter area. This includes the elaborate French colonial buildings, beautiful architecture like overhanging bay windows and a high sloping roof,  Hoan Kiem Lake, St Joseph’s Cathedral, National Museum of Vietnamese History, Ba Dinh Square, the one Pillar Pagoda, Buddhist and Daoist Temples (e.g. Bach Ma Temple), shopping malls, markets, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, and many more.

The Opera House in Hanoi

While strolling around the quarter, we found interesting classic Old Quarter Tube Houses. It’s called a tube house because it’s a house that looks like a long narrow tube of space divided into many sections. I have learned that up until today, many Vietnamese prefer to build a tube house so they would pay less taxes. There also several communal houses that have been existing for hundreds of years. These were established to serve as places for the community and help plan the socio-economic development and other activities of the communities. I noticed that the more time we spent in the Old Hanoi, the more adept we got at discovering the old buildings among the new ones.

Tube houses

2.ActivitiesWhile exploring the city, I realized that there are two must-do activities at the Old Quarter. First, wander around the place. We spent most of our time walking around and we felt a unique vibe and energy there that dates back to the 13th century.Second, try their local tea or coffee while sitting right on the sidewalk. I found it to be the best place to observe how the world go by in the quarter. Moreover, there are many culinary classes in the area: if you love cooking and Vietnamese food, this is an ideal place where to learn.

Tea time 🙂

3.ShoppingUndeniably, the Old Quarter is a shopper’s delight. There are so many different shops around the area – high-end shops, boutiques, Dong Son (the largest market in the city), night market, etc. The shops offer lovely artistic products from around the country, designed by many top craftsmen and artists. There, you can easily find many popular souvenir items such as silk products, embroidered fabrics and bags, conical hats, lacquer ware, coffee beans, paintings and many more. When shopping, don’t forget to wear your smile while bargaining. One thing I have learned about shopping there is that one shouldn’t be shy while negotiating the price because the sellers expect their customers to do so.

I love their lacquer ware and embroidered quilts. Brought some of those products home.

Streets of shopping

4.FoodI love Vietnamese cuisine! My favorite ones are pho rice noodles and cha ca. I also like banh goi. It’s luscious! In addition to their great food, you can find French baguettes and coffee everywhere – locals love it and I love it too! 🙂 I also love their super delicious street food without getting sick. Furthermore, I have also noticed that when dusk comes, lots of people sit on the incredibly tiny chairs on the sidewalks while eating, enjoying themselves and socializing with others. I love this great idea! Since we tried both their high-end restaurants and streets stalls, I would say that the food choices in the Old Quarter is good and the dishes come at cheap to affordable prices no matter where you prefer to dine.

Enjoying my meal

5.NightlifeThe Old Quarter area is a very lively place, 24/7. Live music, discos, clubs, bars, and decent karaoke – name it you can find it all there.  It seems like it is where the night owls head to as it keeps people from all walks of life happy.

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Charming chaos

6.Life on the streetsThe life on the street and the Zen of negotiating the traffic is the heart of the Old Quarter. Jillion of scooters, bicycles and cars fill the streets of the quarter and flock around the pedestrian crossings. The motorists honk all the time making it quite tricky and scary to cross the streets. However, I found it fascinating to watch Vietnamese people slipping through the traffic smoothly and calmly – wait for the right moment, no brusque/rough action, keep moving. In spite of the so busy place, a walk through the quarter gave us a good flavor of Hanoi which has a distinct French feel with an Asian touch. In fact to me, getting lost on its streets that look like a maze of chaotic branches was fun and one of the biggest delight we enjoyed in the city.

A place full of life

Overall, it was such a pleasure to be in a place with old buildings with much French influence that has real appeal. It is indeed a fascinating place for all kinds of travelers even with or without a family.

What did you like best about the Old Quarter? 

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Vietnam: National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi

I enjoy visiting museums. Artifacts in a museum bring a tangible, interactive and exciting history into my life.

Good starting point to be familiar with the Vietnam history.

Sometimes, when we visit a museum, we take a guided tour or audio guides, but when we visited the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi, we decided to just wander around at our own pace. This modern museum houses the finest collection of artifacts from the country’s ancient and more recent history. I saw different costumes and other pieces from Vietnam’s royal dynasties and the most far-reaching one is from the Nguyen Dynasty (last royal dynasty) which ended in 1945.

interesting exhibition

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Good amount of historical relics were displayed in the museum.

Another highlight in this museum is the collection of Dong Son drums that come from central Vietnam’s Cham Kingdom. I have learned that the Bronze Age Dong Son civilization developed in a province not far from Hanoi called Thanh Hoa from around 1200BC for 1000 years. These stunning drums are frequently used as a contemporary symbol of Vietnamese culture and civilization as they portray Vietnamese life.

Dong Son drums

Moreover, this museum contains a lot of information about the different ethnic groups in Vietnam. It also has information regarding the evolution of the country’s history from Neanderthals through the different dynasties.

beautiful antiques

I enjoyed staring at each display 🙂

We spent about an hour wandering inside the museum. What I have seen was far more than I expected. The museum itself is in a fabulous French colonial building which is in itself a beauty to see. The ceramics, the iron works, the bronzes, etc all added up to an unexpected visual experiences. Undeniably, I was amazed by the museum’s impressive collection of historical relics and refreshingly modernized presentation.

wonderful French colonial building

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • Take a good guide if you wish to visit the Vietnam National Museum of History since some exhibits lack detailed information in English.

 

 

 

Vietnam: The Charming One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi

I like the City of Hanoi. There are many interesting places to see within the city and if you stay for only a few days, it’s quite tricky to decide which place to visit.

Besides the pagoda.

One of the places we visited in Hanoi was the One Pillar Pagoda. This Buddhist temple is also known as Chua Mot Cot, which means long lasting happiness and good luck. It was built in 1049, standing on its one pillar until 1954 when the French blew it up in anger because they were being thrown out of Vietnam as colonial masters. Since then, they have rebuilt it and locals and tourists alike can visit it again.

The One Pillar Pagoda

According to the legend, there was an ageing Emperor named Ly Thai Long, who ruled Vietnam from 1028 to 1054. He used to go to the pagoda to pray to Buddha for a son. One night, he dreamt that Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who was standing on a great lotus flower, gave him a baby boy. Later, his wife gave birth to a male child. In gratitude for this, the Emperor ordered the construction of a pagoda which is only supported by only one pillar to resemble the lotus seat of his dream.

People are queuing to go up the pagoda.

While visiting the place, I have learned that many young Vietnamese couples who wanted to have children go there and visit the goddess with the hundred arms inside the temple as it’s believed that she can help young couples to have a child.

Inside the pagoda.

The One Pillar Pagoda is just small, but it has a unique design. It’s cute and it looks good on photo. There’s also a nice park around where you can relax for a while and hide from the sun. Even though it was just a quick tour, overrun by hordes of tourists, I think it’s worth seeing. Certainly, we enjoyed our visit there.

It was a nice relaxing tour.

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • If you wish to visit the One Pillar Pagoda, combine it with the other attractions nearby such as Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Presidential Palace, etc. since all of which are just around the corner.

What can you say about the One Pillar Pagoda?  

 

 

 

Vietnam: Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi

One of the places I like in Hanoi is the charming Hoan Kiem Lake, which is also known as the Lake of the Returned Sword or Lake of the Restored Sword. It’s one of the landmark in the Old Quarter area, one of the main picturesque and breathtaking spots in the city, and it serves as a central point for the area’s public life.

Turtle Tower in the center of the lake

Turtle Tower

The lake is not only special in its history but also in its features. I have learned that the water color of Hoan Kiem Lake is greenish with dark or light shade depending on the reflection of the sky and it’s full of tortoise, which makes it different from the other lakes elsewhere in the Vietnam.

popular breezy spot

Turtle Tower at night

We stayed 5 days in Hanoi, and 3 out of 5 days we went to the lake. We went there during the day, early in the morning and then again at night when it’s all lit up. As we walked by, we witnessed the pace of life in this peculiar city, we saw people jogging, reading, enjoying time with family, children and dogs running around, and hug and kiss events…lol. After strolling around the city at daytime, we had a pleasant break sitting near the lake and had some ice cream. At nighttime, we sat on one of the benches there, enjoyed the scenic views while having some beer. It’s quite tranquil.

lovely place surrounded by the beautiful lake

very nice view; good backdrop for selfies and groufies,

Hoan Kiem Lake at night

I like Hoan Kiem Lake because the place is relaxing and it offers gentle breeze even on the hottest day. It’s a lovely scenery during by day and by night, situated in a lively area in Hanoi.  The more we spent time in the lake, the more special it became. Indeed, it’s well worth a visit!

perfect place for evening stroll and people watching

What did you like about Hoan Kiem Lake?