Touring the North: Hanoi Posted by on May 31, 2021 in Culture, History, Travel, Vocabulary

Thinking of traveling to Vietnam and wondering when would be the best time to travel? Don’t worry too much. The weather there is moderate and you can enjoy a visit any time of year, especially along the coastal areas. In general, the best time to travel is between November and April, after the monsoon season. If you are into Vietnamese ancient history and culture, the north has a lot to offer. In this blog and the subsequent one, I’ll share my experience traveling in the north and places that may spark your interest.

There are four sân bay quốc tế (international airport) in the north:

  • Sân bay quốc tế Nội Bài (HAN) in Hà Nội, Capitol of Vietnam
  • Sân bay quốc tế Vinh (VII) in Nghệ An Province
  • Sân bay quốc tế Cát Bi (HPH) in Hải Phòng Province
  • Sân bay quốc tế Vân Đồn (VDO ) in Quảng Ninh Province

From overseas, I always fly to Sân bay quốc tế Nội Bài (Noi Bai International Airport). It’s the biggest airport in the north. From there, you can fly to pretty much all other places in the country that have domestic airports. If you have never been in the North, let’s start with Hanoi.

Hanoi, thủ đô (capitol) of Vietnam, has lots of historical places, ancient temples, and pagodas to visit. My favorite points of interests are:

  • Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Hoàn Kiếm Lake): In the center of the city is Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Returning Sword Lake), also known as Hồ Gươm (Sword Lake). Its name is associated with the legend from the 15th century that King Lê Lợi received a magical sword from the dragon king to help defeat the Chinese invaders. Once successful, the King, while boating in the lake, met a turtle who was sent to retrieve the sword. The king returned it and to honor this event, he named the lake as Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Returning Sword Lake). In the middle of the lake, there is a Tháp Rùa (Turtle Tower). Nearby is the popular Đền (temple) Ngọc Sơn and cầu (bridge) Thê Húc.

    Hoan Kiem Lake – Image by NguyenDo from Pixabay

  • Phố cổ Hà Nội (Ha Noi Old Quarter): it’s the popular commercial district with thirty-six shopping streets. In the old days, each street was filled with shops that sold only one particular type of item, and the street is named after that particular item. What makes it interesting to me was not about the goods, but the old charming French colonial houses in the area that are still preserved.
  • Đền Văn Miếu (Temple of Literature): Built in the 11th century, this complex included a school for the royals and aristocratic society which considered the first university of Vietnam.

    Temple of Literature – Image by chuongnguyen1989 from Pixabay

  • Chùa Trấn Quốc (Tran Quoc Pagoda): This historical place dates back to the 6th It was the Buddhist center of the old kingdom during the Ly and Tran dynasties.
  • Chùa Một Cột (One Pillar Pagoda): Built in the 11th century, this iconic pagoda is famous for its unique architecture, built on a single pillar.
  • Nhà hát lớn Hà Nội (Hanoi Opera House): Built in the early 20th century by the French, it is modeled after the Opera House in Paris, but on a smaller scale.

While in Hanoi, don’t forget to watch múa rối nước (water puppet show). It’s a traditional genre of theater that dates back to the 11th century. The show is performed in a pool of water with traditional musical instruments in the background and traditional northern style opera singing.

Water Puppets – Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

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