Hanoi Old Quarter
This is the Asia we dreamed of from afar. Steeped in history, pulsating with life, bubbling with commerce, buzzing with motorbikes and rich in exotic scents, the Old Quarter is Hanoi’s historic heart. Hawkers pound the streets, sizzling and smoking baskets hiding a cheap meal for locals. Pho (noodle soup) stalls and Bia hoi (draught beer) dens hug every corner, resonant with the sound of gossip and laughter. Modern yet medieval, there is no better way to spend some time in Hanoi than walking the streets, simply soaking up the sights, sounds and smells.
A green and peaceful Hanoi, a fast-growing hospitable city with great tourism potentials, is now open and warmly welcomes friends from all over the world. The below list of attractions are the must-see sightseeing when you are visiting Hanoi.
• Hoan Kiem lake (300metres away from the hotel) is the liquid heart of the Old Quarter, a good orienting landmark. Legend has it that in the mid – 15th century, heaven gave Emperor Ly Thai To a magical sword that he used to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam. One day after the war, while out boating, he came upon a giant golden tortoise; the creature grabbed the sword and disappeared into the depths of the lake. Since that time, the lake has been known as Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword) because the tortoise returned the sword to its divine owners.
• Ngoc Son Temple: This Hanoi's most visited temple sits pretty on a delightful little island in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake. An elegant scarlet bridge, The Huc Bridge, constructed in classical Vietnamese style and lined with flags, connects the island to the lake shore. The nearby Martyrs’ Monument was erected as a memorial to those who died fighting for Vietnam’s independence.
Surrounded by water and shaded by trees, the small temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao (who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century), La To (patron saint of physicians) and the scholar Van Xuong. Inside you’ll find some fine ceramics, a gong or two, some ancient bells and a glass case containing a stuffed lake turtle, which is said to have weighed a hefty 250kg.
• Memorial House: One of the Old Quarter’s best-restored properties, this traditional merchants’ house is sparsely but beautifully decorated, with rooms set around two courtyards and filled with fine furniture. Note the high steps between rooms, a traditional design incorporated to stop the flow of bad energy around the property.
There are crafts and trinkets for sale here, including silver jewellery, basketwork and Vietnamese tea sets, and there’s usually a calligrapher or other craftsperson at work too.
• Bach Ma Temple (White Horse Temple): The Bach Ma temple at 76 Hang Buom Street honors a white horse which was thought to be an incarnation of a local river god. In the spring of the year 1010, the founder of the Ly dynasty, Ly Thai To issued the "Edict of the Transfer of the Capital", which declared the transfer of the capital from Hoa Lu to Dai La (today's Hanoi). After Ly settled in Hanoi, his laborers worked for a year and a half to construct a mighty citadel, but each time they erected the walls the marshy soil would give way. One day, while the king was praying, an apparition of a white horse appeared before the king and marked off an area using its hoof prints. The king understood that the horse was indicating a safe area to construct the citadel, and indeed, the fortress erected at the site remained standing. In gratitude, the king established Bach Ma temple in 1010 to honor the White Horse who assisted the fledgling city. The temple has been damaged by flooding and other natural disasters over the course of the past thousand years. The present buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
• St Joseph Cathedral: In 1882, after the French army conquered Hanoi, the cathedral was constructed and completed in 1886. The cathedral and Nha Chung area were built on the land formerly belonging to Bao Thien pagoda, which was built under Ly dynasty. The architecture with domes of the cathedral follows the Gothic style and design of Paris Cathedral. Though the appearance of the cathedral, from the doors, the colorful window glass, to the religious paintings for decoration follows Western style, the main interior part is decorated in Vietnamese way with two typical colors yellow and red. Outside, in front of the cathedral is the statue of Mother Maria.
Main time to visit:
Sunday: 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, 11:00, 16:00 & 18:00
Weekday: 6.00 & 18:30