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    Broad boulevards lined with buildings of French-inspired architecture, little roadside galleries stuffed with artwork, charming folks native hats and dress mixing with individuals wearing the latest fashions are what awaits those on a Vietnam tour of Hanoi, the town referred to as cultural capital.

    Hanoi, the nation’s second largest city (using a population of six million and covering 900 square km about the banks from the Red River), is claimed to be the heart and soul of the country- something easily proven by a walk through the streets of this French-colonial city featuring its lakes and temples. Readily navigable on foot, it is a lot to find out and do at a simple pace; start your Vietnam tour from Hanoi and you will probably certainly have the strong feeling of laid-back tranquillity that just a timelessly old settlement can have.

    History. Going back around three centuries before Christ, Hanoi was previously known as Thang Long, and it was renamed Hanoi in 1831 at any given time when Hue was the administrative centre. Present-day Hanoi, however, was largely built through the French occupation- a well known fact reflected in broad streets and charming French inspired buildings that are manifestation of the location.

    Old Quarter. Hoan Kiem District (aka the Old Quarter), considered the city’s business hub and main tourist destination, is perhaps probably the most definitive of Hanoi. A walk from the area is tantamount to stepping back in history – its streets are filled with scooters, traders and individuals simply out for a leisurely stroll neighborhood. Here, you’ll find ancient commercial streets named after their original businesses dating back about 1,000 years, including names of cotton, jewellery, herbs, and silk. While many of the concerns have been replaced with modern-day businesses, once can still understand the sense of the way would be a long time ago, and acquire a feeling of rich, old customs. Preserved shop-houses built a bit over a century ago with street-facing facades and multiple courtyards inside are next to each other with hip cafes, bars, restaurants, bakeries, boutique shops and free galleries.

    Places to Visit. Ho Chi Minh, the country’s most favored leader (seen to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’) rests within a glass case at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in central Hanoi (albeit against his wishes). A vacation to Uncle Ho’s final resting place is an extraordinary experience with a Vietnam tour- after all, it is not only a normal attraction, it’s a section of a nation’s history. For anyone visiting, it will do well to keep in mind the reverence the locals have for Uncle Ho-dress with respect (no shorts, sleeveless shirts and miniskirts) everyone must deposit their bags and cameras before you go in.

    The world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi is a performance art rooted within a tradition dating back to the 1200’s, from a time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers would make entertainment by browsing the waist-deep water with the puppets performing over the water. Large rods to support the puppets appeared to be we were holding moving across the water, together with the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. They’d tell traditional folk stories through operatic songs, together with an orchestra playing traditional music using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. Today, the tradition continues.

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