Hanoi is an ancient city, dating back at least two thousand years. It was initially a trading post along the China/Malay road that stretched from central China all the way down the Malay peninsula to the island of Sumatra. As the trading post grew in importance and population, imperial China took a more predatory interest in the area and eventually sent its armies to conquer the town and surrounding countryside. The area stayed under Chinese authority for the next five hundred years, when the Vietnames people threw off the Chinese shackles and elected their own minor Emperor to rule from Hanoi. This lasted until the French decided to push their weight around in the eighteenth century. After a few desultory battles, the French became the ‘protectors’ of Vietnam and tried to turn Hanoi into a carbon copy of Paris. Their handiwork is everywhere still apparent in Hanoi.
Today Hanoi is a city approaching one million inhabitants who are dedicated to living the good life in their tropical enclave as they practice a free-wheeling capitalism under a flexible communist government. For entertainment, shopping, eating, and seeing the sights, Southeast Asia offers very few places as sophisticated and enchanting as Hanoi — Gateway to Southeast Asia! Here are just a few of the places to see and things to do while there.
Enjoy a show at the Hanoi Opera House.
Newly renovated, this ornate French classical style building was put up back in 1911, and featured all the best French theatrical talents of the time. The building was allowed to fall into disrepair during World War Two, when the Japanese invaded and took over the country, but the citizens of Hanoi volunteered their time and talents to have the theater completely redone in its original colors of gold and sky blue in the 1990s — and today you can view shows ranging from classical Chines opera to the latest Broadway productions in its magnificent auditorium, which can seat over a thousand customers at a time.
Take a cooking class
Vietnamese cuisine is a wonderful mixture of fresh seafood overlaid with French cooking techniques — along with an infusion of classic chinese seasonings. It all adds up to a flavorful fantasy that makes Vietnamese food a heavy contender in the international food world. In Hanoi there are dozens of cooking class hoi an where you can learn how to properly prepare a bahn me sandwich or make your own unique noodles for that quintessential Vietnames dish, pho. You’ll discover how to unlock the secrets of such intriguing ingredients as tamarind and salted duck eggs. The best part of all, of course, is that you get to eat your homework!
Even lowbrows love the Temple of Literature
This petite Chinese-style temple was built over a thousand years ago to commemorate the teachings of Confucius. It is filled with ancient scroll and tablet commentaries on the teachings of the famous Chinese sage. Students still visit the temple today to light incense and pray for good grades. The surrounding gardens are filled with beautiful fish ponds, pagodas, and small statues of the Seven Gods of Wisdom. Admission is free to children 15 years and under.