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Hanoi, Vietnam

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One of the few things which has remained unchanged in Hanoi during its more than 1,000 year old history is its capital city status. The architecture in Vietnam's present day national capital and second most populous city is a unique blend of East and West. Many of Hanoi's ancient temples were first built when the city was under Chinese rule, while French colonial structures are the most obvious reminders of Hanoi's French Indochina era.

Ever since the end of Vietnam's Communist era more than two decades ago, Hanoi has been one of Southeast Asia's most rapidly developing cities, even though it is not quite as sprawling as Ho Chi Minh City. Tourists have become familiar sights in this popular back-packer base, and it does not usually take long to find locals who are willing to help out and practise their English.

There is a tourist information centre north of Hoan Kiem Lake as well as self-help interactive information booths throughout the Old Quarter, where most Hanoi tourist attractions are found. A Hanoi walking tour can easily be done around the compact Old Quarter, which is situated close to Hoan Kiem Lake’s north side.

The Old Quarter is a picturesque area whose streets were designed to look like ancient Beijing hutongs. The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre holds performances twice per day at the Old Quarter, which also happens to be Hanoi's main shopping, nightlife, and expat district.

The other important body of water in this 'city of lakes,' West Lake, shares its name with the district of Tay Ho. The embalmed body of North Vietnam's former leader Ho Chi Minh is laid to rest in a mausoleum near a square in Ba Dinh, a district on the south side of West Lake. Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is located near a museum about the life of this national hero and his final home.

The Confucius Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam's first national university, has educated students in the Dong Da district since 1070. Several significant cultural and educational events still occur at the Temple of Literature's five courtyards. The Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts, Air Force Museum, and Army Museum are Hanoi's highest ranked museums.

Boating on West Lake is one of the most relaxing activities visitors can do in Hanoi's green spaces, which also include the parks of Ly Thai To and Lenin. Lenin Park, in particular, is well known for its aerobics classes and sports opportunities.

Hanoi's other main lake, Hoan Kiem, is relatively small, but still popular because of its location in the middle of the city. The 18th century Ngoc Son Temple stands on a small island at Hoan Kiem Lake's top end, while the Old Quarter stands on another part of the lake's shoreline. Quan Thanh is an even older lakeside temple which has been located on Truc Bach Lake's shores since the 11th century. An equally impressive Huyen Thien Tran Vo statue has stood near Quan Thanh Temple for more than three centuries.


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