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Cuc Phuong National Park

national park

79km

20.316667105.608333

Haiphong

municipality of Vietnam

94km

20.85106.6833

Ha Long Bay

bay in Vietnam

145km

20.85107.15

Sa Pa

human settlement

259km

22.35103.8667

Tha Khaek

city

398km

17.4104.8

Luang Prabang

city located in north central Laos

430km

19.8833102.1333
Sights

Temple of the Jade Mountain

Located on a small island in the Hoan Kiem Lake, connected with the mainland by a bridge. With small but attractive grounds, the temple displays on Vietnamese history and, more memorably, displays on the giant turtles, including a mummified specimen (who died in 1968). The two on-site gift shops vend a variety of souvenirs, many of them turtle-themed.

349m

21.0307105.852

St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi

A late 19th-century Gothic Revival church that serves as the cathedral of the RC Archdiocese of Hanoi. Built in 1886, the exterior is gaunt and grey, but within is light and peaceful. Mass is held several times a day, and for Sunday evening mass at 18:00 the crowds are huge: the service is broadcast to those outside who can't get in.

502m

21.02861111105.84888889

Hoàn Kiếm Lake

A pleasant park in the centre of town, an easy walk from anywhere in the Old Quarter. It's the locals' favorite leisure spot, and a great place to watch people practising tai chi in the morning or to sit and read in the afternoon. At weekends the park becomes even more popular as the normally busy road around it is pedestrianised, and instead filled with children driving electric cars or riding hoverboards. Hoan Kiem means "returned sword", and the name comes from a legend in which King Le Loi was given a magical sword by the gods, which he used to drive out the invading Chinese. Later, while boating on the lake, he encountered a giant turtle, which grabbed the sword and carried it down to its depths, returning it to the gods from whom it had come. (You can see a version of the legend at the Water Puppet Theatre.) The giant soft-shell turtles, whom Vietnamese biologists assigned to a separate species, Rafetus leloii, resided in the lake until the early 21st century. One of them, who died in 1968, has been preserved by the wonders of taxidermy, and can be viewed in a glass box (sarcophagus?) in a pavilion adjacent to Ngoc Son Temple on the island in the lake.

535m

21.02888889105.8525

Hỏa Lò Prison

This prison was built by the French at the turn of the 20th century, in classical French prison design. This is where the French imprisoned and executed Vietnamese freedom fighters. It is now a museum since two thirds of the prison was torn down to make way for the Hanoi Towers, the museum exhibits the plight of the jailed political revolutionaries, their plight under the French colonial regime and the struggle of the Vietnamese people against imperialism in chilling detail. The prison was also known as the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War as it held US POWs. Little emphasis is given to this period however, and to some the exhibits may seem to be propaganda, such as showing photos only of prisoners being treated well and playing basketball and playing chess. The museum claims to have John McCain's flight suit from when his plane was shot down. Most of the exhibits are self-explanatory in English and a guide may not be required. You can still get one for 25,000 dong.

924m

21.02527778105.84638889

Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts

Only party-approved art is shown here and there is no information in English and not much in Vietnamese. But it is an interesting museum, on three floors of a colonial building, with another 3 galleries in the west wing. Pieces include soldiers on boats depicted on prehistoric bronze drums, Buddhist art, and revolutionary art of the 20th century wars. Also some interesting silk paintings.

1.5km

21.0306105.837

Temple of Literature, Hanoi

citadel

1.7km

21.02861111105.83555556

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The city down south may have his name, but only Hanoi has the man himself, entombed in distinctly Lenin-esque fashion. Against his wishes, but that's how it goes. No talking, revealing clothing (shorts should be knee length and no exposed shoulders), or other signs of disrespect allowed while viewing; photos are allowed only from outside, in the grand Ba Dinh Square. Purses are allowed into the tomb, but expect them to be searched by several bored soldiers along the way. Left luggage is handled in a complicated scheme: there is an office near the street for large bags, with separate windows for Vietnamese and foreigners, and a further office for cameras, which will be transported to a third office right outside the exit of the mausoleum. Items checked in at the first office, however, will stay there. The mausoleum is closed for a couple months around the end of the year, when the body is taken abroad for maintenance. It is closed in the afternoons for maintenance.

1.7km

21.03666667105.83472222

Presidential Palace, Hanoi

Completed in 1906 as the residence of the French Governor-General of Indochina. It became the official residence of the President of North Vietnam following independence in 1954, and later of the President of Vietnam following reunification in 1975. Ho Chi Minh was said to have refused to live in the palace for symbolic reasons, though he used it to receive state guests. The building itself is not open to the public, but you can view it from the outside and take photographs.

1.9km

21.03888889105.83416667

One Pillar Pagoda

Visitors find this either charming and lovely or utterly pointless, depending on how many tour groups are crammed into the small grounds at the time of their visit. It has a long history attached to it. Regarded as one of Vietnam's iconic temples, it was built by Emperor Lý Thái Tông. The emperor was childless and dreamt that he met the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower. He then married a peasant girl that he had met and she bore him a son. The emperor constructed the temple in gratitude for this in 1049 having been told by a monk to build the temple, by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, similar to the one he saw in the dream. Before the pagoda was opened, prayers were held for the longevity of the monarch. The temple is built of wood on a single stone pillar 1.25 m in diameter, and it is designed to resemble a lotus blossom, which is a Buddhist symbol of purity, since a lotus blossoms in a muddy pond. In 1954, the French Union forces destroyed the pagoda before withdrawing from Vietnam after the First Indochina War, it was rebuilt afterwards.

1.9km

21.03586389105.83331944

Ho Chi Minh Museum

This gleaming white museum and its gloriously ham-handed iconography is the perfect chaser to the solemnity of the mausoleum. The building, completed in 1990, is intended to evoke a white lotus. Some photos and old letters are on display on the second floor, but the main exhibition space is on the third floor. It includes cars crashing through walls to represent the chaos of post-war American capitalism, soldiers charging around with electric plugs, a cave hideout re-imagined as the inside of Ho Chi Minh's brain, and several other postmodern confections integrated with the detailed main story of the man's life and his country's struggle. There are plenty of photographs, prison documents and newspaper cuttings tracing his life along the way. The tour ends with a burnt bridge signifying the separation of Vietnam, followed by a reconstructed bridge showing the unification of Vietnam after the war. One of the more informative museums in Vietnam. Free guides are available in English, French, Chinese and Russian. The displays are labelled in English and French.

1.9km

21.035693105.832624

Presidential Palace Historical Site

The exit from the mausoleum takes you right into the grounds of the, uh, vestige, where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 until his death in 1969. The nicely landscaped complex includes two of Ho Chi Minh's houses, kept shiny and "as he left them" by the authorities, as well as a garage with two of Ho's "used cars" and a carp-filled pond. You also get to see Ho Chi Minh's work room and politburo meeting room The presidential palace is nearby, but it's not always open to visitors. Pamphlets are available in English, Chinese, French and Korean. Guided tours are usually available if you wait.

2.0km

21.038105.833

West Lake (Hanoi)

Mostly a residential hub of the well-to-do. Hotel Intercontinental and Hanoi Sheraton are on this lake front.

4.0km

21.055105.82

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

Exhibitions cover mainly the culture and ritual practices of the various ethnic groups in the whole of Vietnam. One of the key attractions of the museum is the open-air exhibition, which has houses of some ethnic groups, which even comes with inhabitants in costumes. The museum features actual explanations of the exhibits in Vietnamese, French and English. There is an excellent café on the premises.

5.8km

21.0406105.7987

Hanoi Museum

7.6km

21.00916667105.78583333

we will see

Hanoi

Vietnam
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and its second largest city, is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French je ne sais quoi from its colonial past. It was largely unspoiled by the modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now undergoing a rapid transformation that makes it a rising star in Southeast Asia.

Personal note

Watch the water puppets for a trippy experience. Find out about the supernatural turtle in the middle of the lake. Skip Halong Bay if you have to in favour of an unforgettable trip north to Sa Pa.

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Climate

Average temperatures

Jan

19°C14
Precipitation: 19 mm

Feb

20°C15
Precipitation: 26 mm

Mar

23°C18
Precipitation: 44 mm

Apr

27°C21
Precipitation: 90 mm

May

32°C24
Precipitation: 189 mm

Jun

33°C26
Precipitation: 240 mm

Jul

33°C26
Precipitation: 288 mm

Aug

32°C26
Precipitation: 318 mm

Sep

31°C25
Precipitation: 265 mm

Oct

29°C22
Precipitation: 131 mm

Nov

25°C19
Precipitation: 43 mm

Dec

22°C15
Precipitation: 23 mm