An enchanting mix of the old and new, Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, and commercial centre, Ho Chi Minh City, forms the two most travelled parts of the country.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Still fondly referred to as Saigon by the locals, “The Pearl of the Orient” still retains a charm reminiscent of its French-European heritage in the midst of rapid commecialisation. The city promises an endless fascination for tourists wanting to explore Vietnam’s rich 4,000-year history.
Stroll through the streets and chance upon elegant neoclassical buldings and sidewalk vendors selling french rolls with pate; hints of a bygone era when the French ruled Vietnam. Or visit the many art galleries or antique shops if your passion is collecting art pieces on a budget.
Explore Ho Chi Minh City’s main markets, Cholon and Ben Thanh. Ben Thanh, the city’s central market has a personality that features a wonderful atmospheric mix of chaotic Oriental bazaar with orderly colonial structure. Purchase fine local lacquer ware, silks and fresh market produce.
As legend has it, Hanoi was founded in 1010 by King Ly Thai To upon sighting of an auspicious Golden Dragon rising from the sea.
Hanoi has been the capital of Vietnam since 1954. Studded with sapphire lakes, shaded boulevards and verdant parks, Hanoi also still retains many fine examples of colonial architecture and is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of the North”. History is on display at the several musuems in the city, of which the Fine Arts Museum is a must-see.
The area’s colonial-era buildings are home to many of Hanoi’s hotels, state stores and non-socialist embassies. Visit the infamous Hilton Hotel, where US prisoners of war were held. Enjoy the tranquil lakes such as Ho Tay, Hanoi’s largest lake, and Hoan Kiem Lake, a focal point of many morning activites such as Tai Chi.
Spindly streets and quaint buildings, harken the romance of 1930 French provincial towns. Include a visit to the Independence Museum, the One-Pillar Pagoda and picturesque lakes among the many charming attraction.
Hanoi: Things To See & Do
Hanoi: Events Highlights
|Hanoi Hash House Harriers Family Run||1 March
An hour-long jog around town (hashing), open to locals and visitors alike; a great way to meet the locals and see the city and the surrounding countryside as it is as much a social gathering as an exercise.
|Tet Festival||25 – 27 January
Vietnam’s main celebration of the New Year according to the Chinese Lunar calendar.
|Lim Festival||20 February .
A festival with a patriotic atmosphere held at the Lim Pagoda celebrating the country’s much-beloved quan ho folk songs, reminding the people of their love for their country.
|Perfume Pagoda (Huong Tich) Festival||21 February
An annual festival where Buddhists flock to this famous Buddhist pilgrimage site to pray for happiness and prosperity for the new year.
|Thay Pagoda Festival and Lang Festival||5 – 7 March
Twin festivals honouring the Buddhist monk To Dao Hanh, featuring water-puppet performances, traditional dragon dance and a procession along To Lich River.
|Nui Ba Festival||7 March
Thousands of Buddhists and tourists flock to this mountain to worship and sightsee in an annual celebration honouring Denh, the woman of whom the mountain was named after.
|Hung Temple Festival||15 April
A three-day worship festival for the Hung Kings, who were instrumental in the founding of the nation, marked by processions,
an elephant march and performances.
|Ly Bat De Temple Festival||20 April
A festival honouring the reigns of the eight Ly Kings, filled with traditional activities such as human chess and cockfights.
|Mid-Autumn Festival||14 September
A festival celebrating the autumn moon in the middle of the lunar year, filled with bags of fun for the children and mooncakes.
|Keo Pagoda Festival||October (tba)
A three-day three-night event honouring the Buddhist monk Duong Khong Lo, marked with processions, displays of weaponry, boat races and musical pageantry.