[H]anoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is an ancient city that surges with energy.
Local tradition is a big part of culture, yet the rise of modernization and the boom of industrialization has transformed Hanoi into a city that never seems to slow down or take a break.
The historical attractions, the continuous markets, and the stunning array of cuisine makes Hanoi a perfect place to let yourself loose and explore.
Mornings, or even afternoons and evenings, should always begin with a few cups of Vietnamese coffee.
Introduced by the French during the years of colonization, Vietnam became addicted to dark roasts and strong brews.
While I normally enjoy hot plain black unsweetened coffee, Vietnamese iced “ca phe sua da,” which includes a ton of sweetened condensed milk, really hits the spot on a warm day.
The Old Quarter of Hanoi is one of the original and most congested sections of town. Motorbikes zoom through the narrow roads and lanes while stores and restaurants line the streets and even sprawl onto the road.
Each building is unique in the Old Quarter and I was just amazed at the architecture and construction. Delicious restaurants, stores selling everything imaginable, hotels, and bars are now all very common throughout the Old Quarter.
Located adjacent to the Old Quarter is Hoan Kiem Lake, a landmark and popular gathering place in Hanoi for tourists and locals alike. The water, far from clear, is famous for its deep green color.
The Ngoc Son Temple, located on a small island within the lake, is reached by crossing the red-painted Huc Bridge. The distinguishable bridge is a favorite place to stop and take photos.
Hoan Kiem Lake is the type of place that invites one to eat an ice cream cone while taking a meandering stroll that strictly focuses on relaxation.
Ho Chi Minh was a revolutionary leader and one of the most important founding fathers of Vietnam. Often referred to as Uncle Ho, he now remains embalmed and displayed at his mausoleum in Hanoi.
Everyday the mausoleum is open to visitors from 9 am – 12 pm and thousands come to show their honor and respect. If you go, be sure to adhere to the strict dress code and visiting guidelines.
As one of the most important Buddhist temples in Hanoi, I wasn't all that impressed just from the outward appearance of the One Pillar Pagoda.
More of an appreciation of the temple came after reading about the temple's historical significance and what it represents.
The emperor in the 11th century had no offspring and one night he had a dream where a Bodhisattva presented him with a child sitting on a lotus plant. To honor this vision, he built the one pillar pagoda and its legend lives on.
The Temple of Literature, devoted to Confucius, is one of the most famous attractions in Hanoi. The ancient temple was home to Vietnam's first national university and houses works of art, stelae, statues, engravings and shrines.
Observing the layout and surrounding courtyards are also a highlight of visiting the temple – constructed in a similar design to the place where Confucius was born.
Vietnamese food is tasty, fresh and often supplemented by a huge pile of vibrant herbs. Throughout the day, and long into the night, people take to the streets for some of the most satisfying meals the city has to offer.
Though pho (chicken or beef noodle soup) is the most iconic dish of Vietnam, it was something known as bun cha that really satisfied my taste buds.
The combination of chopped grilled pork tossed into a sweet and sour soup, accompanied by rice noodles and herbs, and garnished with chillies and minced garlic is a flavor I'll cherish forever.
The greatest thing about Hanoi is that you can never be certain exactly what you'll discover – each day is new and brings with it an opportunity to see something, eat something, or experience something you've never done before.
Exciting, fascinating and always entertaining is what characterizes a tour of Hanoi.