9 August 2017, 2:38 PM
Travel to Hanoi and experience the fusion of French colonialism in a progressive Vietnamese city. Enjoy Mekong River cruises to countryside water markets and tour the towering limestone rocks around Ha Long Bay. Music, dance, and freshly cooked food at your table makes Hanoi an exciting destination.
Once a small rural town, Hanoi has experienced a frenetic pace of building construction in the past 2 decades. What surprises many travelers is the French cultural influence that is visible in Hanoi's architecture, language, and food. The aroma of freshly baked baguette bread sticks, the sight of locals wearing French berets, and and the sound of locals speaking French in Vietnam is truly unique. Hanoi is a wonderful city to visit. Start your vacation at the Trấn Quốc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hanoi. Built in 548 AD, you can burn incense and make small offerings to pay your respects to the Buddhist culture.
Explore French colonial architectural building
Invariably, you'll find yourself walking through the Old Quarter admiring the French colonial architecture in Hanoi. Zigzagging and dodging a calavry of busy Vietnamese locals bustling along on their Honda Dream mopeds, you'll witness firsthand how this thriving nation is thrusting itself into the modern world. The Temple of Literature is a remarkable architectural design and a must see to put on your Vietnam bucket list. Enjoy walking around and visiting incredible local art studios. Be sure to indulge in delicious food - restaurants are incredibly well priced! Enjoy seafood delicacies, including hand-size prawns that are cooked and shelled at your table. Traditional Vietnamese entertainment awaits in the Hanoi Old Quarter, where performances from water puppets to singing and dancing occur nightly.
Before leaving Hanoi, an Indiana Jones type thrill seeking experience is to enjoy a 1/2 day or full day boat ride along the Mekong River which traverses through the city. As you travel down the Mekong to the countryside, you can transfer to small canoes and visit villages perched along inland waterways. With a guide, you can paddle in hollowed-out canoes around villages and witness first-hand the amazing world of local Vietnam villages. Stop at floating markets to buy traditional watercolor paintings and local crafts. Some tours also offer a musical performance as part of the riverboat tour.
For geologists and nature lovers, Ha Long Bay, located 120 miles from Hanoi, is pure paradise. Translated into English as the "Bay of Descending Dragons," the limestone rock formations that sprout from the water give Ha Long Bay a distinctive look that has attracted millions of outdoor enthusiasts. Get up close to these magnificent rock structures by boat and explore some of the inhabited inlets around the Bay. Traveling to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi takes 4-5 hours by bus and a private car which costs US$150; return is affordable when 4 passengers are traveling.