Despite Vietnam’s recent rush to modernize, its capital city of Hanoi retains many charms of colonial Indochine, especially around the Old Quarter, a maze of 36 streets dating back to the 13th century still rich in colonial and pre-colonial, Chinese influenced architecture. Wander among the contemporary Vietnamese art galleries, fashion boutiques and cafes of this colorful neighborhood or hop in a cyclo for a less strenuous tour.
At the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and nearby Ho Chi Minh Museum, built in the shape of a white lotus, exhibits integrate the story of the ‘American War’ with Ho Chi Minh’s personal history. His modest stilt house, with minimal furnishing and surrounded by gardens provides a glimpse into how Vietnam’s revolutionary ‘Uncle Ho’ lived until his death in l969.
Other historic Hanoi attractions include the photogenic One Pillar Pagoda, Bach Ma Temple, which is Hanoi’s oldest temple, and the Confucian Temple of Literature. Though controversial, the moving Requiem exhibition at the War Remnants Museum displays photographs taken by photojournalists on both sides of the Vietnam War. Lighter cultural entertainment can be found at Hanoi’s Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. Devised by rice farmers here more than a thousand years ago to entertain their children, these wooden figurines now skim the stage every evening near Hoan Kiem Lake, accompanied by traditional Vietnamese musical instruments.
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