Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is located on the bank of the Red River in the northern section of the country. While not the largest city in the country, Hanoi has had a rich history. It has been inhabited since 3000 B.C., and has served as the seat of government for nearly a thousand years. Today, as South and North Vietnam have been united, the city is the capital of the entire unified country.
The city is nicknamed the "city of lakes," and the lakes are one of the attractions that many tourists visit. History buffs love visiting Hanoi as the city has more cultural and historic sites than any other in the country. Temples and pagodas are found on nearly every street within the city. The Temple of Literature is another popular destination. This is the oldest Vietnamese university. The Vietnamese National History Museum and the National Museum of Ethnology are both popular attractions in the capital city.
In 1010 Emperor Ly Thai To founded his capital on the fertile banks of the Red River, which he christened 'City of the Ascending Dragon'. A millennium later, Hanoi remains Vietnam's political centre with its crowded streets lined with reminders of its long and tumultuous history. Moving at a slower pace than southern Saigon, there are plenty of tranquil neighborhoods to explore with ochre-colored colonial style buildings, tree-lined avenues and lakes. There is still lots of excitement in the alleyways and streets of the Old Quarter which team with life and myriad motorbikes. Whilst here take the opportunity to enjoy a bowl of pho by Hoan Kiem Lake, discover the grisly Hanoi Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton, or visit Ho Chi Minh, embalmed in his very own Soviet style monolith mausoleum.
You might also want to use the city as a base for excursions throughout the north to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island, to the Ninh Binh area south of Hanoi and Tam Coc, the "Halong Bay in the rice fields," or for a primate encounter at Cuc Phuong National Park. In addition, Hanoi is a jumping-off point for rugged travel in the highlands of the northwest, among hill tribes and along high passes lined with lush terraced rice farms in a loop that includes historic Dien Bien Phu and the old French holiday escape of Sapa, the most popular town in the north that is easily reached by overnight train from Hanoi.