Hanoi

We stayed at the Hanoi Elite Hotel entirely because it had come top of the Hanoi ratings on TripAdvisor. And I have to say I would concur with the top grading. For around $55 a night for a double room and breakfast it represented remarkable value. We opted for their meet and greet at Hanoi Airport - $18 to pick you up and take you to the hotel - again well worth it. I certainly would not have wanted to take on the touts milling round International Arrivals

The Hanoi Elite Hotel offered 12 modern well maintained and furnished rooms.  Our room came complete with air conditioning, mini bar, electronic safe deposit box , 32’’ LCD TV with cable program , HD Multi media Player, and free Wireless internet access with a laptop they provide in the room. It was right in the Old Town, and everything was in walking distance.

In 1831 the emperor renamed the city Hà Nội meaning "Between Rivers". Hanoi was occupied by the French in 1873 and became the capital of French Indochina after 1887. The city was occupied by the Japanese in 1940 and liberated in 1945, when it briefly became the seat of the Viet Minh government after Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam. However, the French returned and reoccupied the city in 1946. After nine years of fighting between the French and Viet Minh forces, Hanoi became the capital of an independent North Vietnam in 1954.

During the Vietnam War, Hanoi' was extensively bombed by the Americans. And at the end of the war Hanoi became the capital of a reunified Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976. Hanoi has today a population of 6,250,000.

The Old Quarter, where we were staying, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations, and some do still retain their trades.

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Stayed at and enjoyed the Elite ...ate at Restaurant 96 - enjoyed ...and Green Tangerine - enjoyed ...and Tamarind - thumbs down

There were 3 days to explore the city, all on foot as everything was within walking distance of the hotel. The lasting impression was the number of motorbikes and the fact that nobody stopped for pedestrians. To cross a road you just stepped out into a never ending mass of traffic (there were very few cars) and purposefully marched across the road. The bikes weaved around you, but the system worked. It was certainly nerve racking to start with, but I got used to it.

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Hotel Elite Hoan Kiem Lake The island on the lake Quite the thing to have your photo taken if you are getting married
Communist era propaganda Bicycles carry everything Shops sell everything .. ..from bamboo ladders .. .. to ceramics.
It is a big coffee producer The Army museum is proud to .. show they defeated the USA Exhorting the mass to more work Around the other lake
The one pillar temple And Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. The museum to go with it, is dedicated to Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam's revolutionary struggle against foreign powers and was constructed in the 1990s. The whole area occupies a vast area in central Hanoi. The mausoleum was inspired by Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow but incorporates distinct Vietnamese architectural elements. The exterior is made of gray granite, while the interior is gray, black, and red polished stone. In his will, Ho Chi Minh stated his wish to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered in the hills of north, central, and southern Vietnam. He said that he preferred cremation because it would be "more hygienic than burial and would also save land for agricultural purposes." The mausoleum was built in spite of his wishes.
A pause overlooking the lake. The back into the hustle of the .. .city with motorbikes everywhere And a meal at the end of the day Next day out onto the streets
The laden ladies are everywhere. Hanoi Opera House. National Museum of Revolution Public building on the lake. One of many flower shops.
Green Tangerine Restaurant which had an interior colonial courtyard, where we enjoyed a modern "fusion" lunch for a very reasonable 500,000 Dong (£20). We went here for lunch, as the previous night we had not booked and were unable to get a table. However this proved to be a bonus. The Green Tangerine offers a fixed price lunch menu, so you can enjoy a very reasonable lunch (yes the wine is expensive, but you do not have to drink wine, stick to beer) The courtyard setting is very "old French Hanoi" and very atmospheric, the fusion cooking is well presented, and the service excellent. So you can enjoy lunch at less than half the price of dinner
St Joseph's Cathedral Central Prison, known by US POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" but it had held and tortured prisoners from French colonialist days. The Hanoi Hilton prison was demolished in the mid-1990s and the site now contains two high-rise buildings, one of them the 25-story Somerset Grand Hanoi serviced apartment building. Only part of the prison exists today as a museum. The interrogation room where many newly captured Americans were questioned (notorious among former prisoners as the "blue room") is now made up to look like a very comfortable, if spartan, barracks-style room. Displays in the room claim that Americans were treated well and not harmed (and even cite the nickname "Hanoi Hilton" as proof that inmates found the accommodations comparable to a hotel's). However of 766 pilots captured, 114 died in captivity Next stop was the Temple of
Literature, which was the site of an original University in Hanoi .. ..and hence attracted both brides and students to have their photos taken in academic surroundings
Back across town in time for the Water Puppet show. Apart from the fact that an extremely fat American curtailed my view of the stage, it was very good. Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields flooded, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.

Next day on to Ha Long Bay

Cruise Hanoi to Singapore on Orion II