After a week in Laos (population 7 million) it was a bit of a shock to fly into Vietnam and land in Hanoi, a city of 8 million people. The capital for almost a thousand years, Hanoi was a fascinating place to explore. I was expecting history but not the beauty of it’s many lakes, including West Lake and Truc Bach Lake.

The Hanoi Botanical Gardens were another area of natural beauty, designed by French landscape architects in 1890, and opened to the public in 1954.

The original One Pillar Pagoda was built in the 11th century, but destroyed by the French in 1954. The current structure is a replica built after the war.

I didn’t get any photos that really represented how intense Hanoi was, particularly at night. It looks quite subdued in this photo but I remember a sea of scooters, narrow or non-existent pavements, heat, humidity and noise.

There were also some large loads carried on scooters, though these were the only ones I managed to catch as they dashed by.

Annoyingly the Vietnam Military History Museum was closed over lunchtime when I went to visit it. The 33m high Flag Tower of Hanoi dates from 1812.

After a very long walk, this was back in 2013 without Google Maps, using the paper kind instead, I found Hun Tiep Lake and the remains of a B-52 shot down in 1972.

The Prime Minister, then President of Vietnam during it’s struggles for independence against the French and then the American War (as the Vietnam War is known as in Vietnam), Ho Chi Minh is embalmed within the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Protected by a military guard, there was a solemn atmosphere inside, with no photography allowed.

For much of his time as President Ho Chi Minh lived in a beautifully simple two room Stilt House, in a leafy complex in front of a carp pond, near the bright yellow Presidential Palace of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh Museum was built in the 1990s, and was a thoroughly confusing place, heavy on Communist style symbolism.

There is a statue to another famous Communist in Lenin Garden.

Typical modern Vietnamese houses on the way into the city from the airport, tall and narrow with elaborate facades.

The Water Puppet Show was an acquired taste which didn’t do much for me, particularly the music, but it is a Vietnamese tradition dating back to the 11th century.

From Hanoi I caught the overnight train to Hue, less comfortable than the overnight train I took in Thailand, but a good way to see some of the countryside, mainly covered in rice paddies.

Author: jontycrane

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