Reasons to visit Hanoi

You should all come and visit me in my new home because….

1. There’s a tonne of history

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Hanoi is a little over a millennium old and a lot of that history is on display. There’s the Temple of Literature which is a university that predates Oxford and Cambridge, an imperial citadel and numerous religious buildings. There are also plenty of museums including several devoted to the American War that will appeal to military aficionados.

2. Green spaces

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My view of Asian cities was very much set by having visited India. Places like Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur are amazing but one does wind up feeling rather crushed by the sheer weight of humanity. That’s fortunately not true of Hanoi. While is certainly bustles with life, there are also plenty of quieter spots to escape to.

3. Markets

Shopping for things other than books and DVDs isn’t really my thing but if it’s yours then you Hanoi’s plentiful markets may interest you. Some are geared towards tourists so focus on things like crafts that can be used as souvenirs. However, the bulk they are for locals use for their household shopping, so you can find plenty of interesting and cheap things in these ones.

4. Food

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I’m going to do a post devoted to Vietnamese food later in the week. Suffice to say that it’s tasty and healthy.

5. Halong Bay

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A few hours drive from Hanoi is one of the wonders of the natural world: that’s an official title bestowed on Halong Bay by UNESCO! The bay is an unreasonably picturesque place more closely resembling a movie set than somewhere you would actually expect to be able to visit.

6. Prices

When you first hear prices in Vietnamese Dong they sound faintly horrifying: 40,000 VND for some rice and spring rolls! Actually when you break it down things turn out to be remarkably affordable. Getting a meal for less than a £1 is eminently possible.

7. People

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The residents of big cities are stereotypically rude and unfriendly. I’ve found Hanoians are an exception to this generalisation.

They seem able to remain calm in the face of the chaotic roads. They do use their motorbike horns with a frequency that would if copied in the UK indicate that someone had an anger management problem.  But in Hanoi it does just seem to be a matter of letting people know where they are.

You will get people trying to sell you things but they are almost invariably polite enough to leave you alone if you say you are not interested.

And so far they’ve been remarkably patient with my efforts to communicate through a mixture of mime, English, garbled Vietnamese and scrawled notes. I’ve had other customers in restaurants with no prompting from anyone else translate my order for me.

 

Tomorrow on Matter of Facts: Why has Vietnam forgiven America?

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