For over one thousand years, the city of Hanoi has remained a culturally and politically important center of Vietnam. These days, it is also a major tourist destination thanks to its diverse range of attractions. From Buddhist temples to Communist museums, there is certainly plenty to do and see. Surround all of this by bustling markets and aromatic noodle stalls and it is obvious why so many people flock to see the streets of Hanoi each year.
The city of Hanoi has long been an important focus for Vietnam. In 1010, it was announced as the country’s capital city. In those days, it was known as Thang Long (translated as Rising Dragon). In 1397, Thang Long lost its status as capital. After this, the city was occupied by both the Vietnamese and Chinese at several stages, undergoing numerous name changes. In 1831, it was finally given its present-day name, Hanoi. In 1887, the French colonized Vietnam and made Hanoi the capital of Indochina. From 1940 to 1945, Japanese soldiers occupied the city until Ho Chi Minh declared independence and made Hanoi his seat of power. This period was brief as the French took control of the city again in 1946. Fighting between the Vietnamese and the French lasted until 1954 when Hanoi was made the capital of North Vietnam. Following the Vietnam War, the country was finally unified again with Hanoi retaining its status of capital.
Hanoi is the second largest city in Vietnam. It occupies an area of about 72 square miles (186 square kilometers) and contains approximately 2.6 million people.
The vast majority of Hanoi’s population are Vietnamese (98%). The other 2% consists of numerous ethnic groups, the most common of which are Tay, Muong, Thai and Nung. Vietnamese is the most common language spoken here. English and Chinese speakers can also be found, especially in tourist areas.
Since Hanoi has been the capital of Vietnam for over 1,000 years, there are plenty of attractions for the average tourist. Some of the highlights include:
Volunteers in Hanoi should not miss out on the city’s diverse cuisine either. Some of the country’s national dishes are thought to have originated from here. The follow lists some of the highlights that should not be skipped when touring the city:
Hanoi also has its fair share of delights when it comes to drinking. The national favorite, Bia Hoi, can be found quite easily. This is draught beer, brewed daily, which is sent straight to the vendor where it is served fresh and ready to drink. This is by far the cheapest option for alcohol in Hanoi.
Other popular beverages include iced tea and fruit shakes. Coffee is also common and is served in the traditional Vietnamese way by filtering it through a fabric bag and adding condensed milk.
Most Volunteers arriving in Hanoi will first disembark at the Noi Bai International Airport. This airport is relatively small, especially considering it is located in the country’s capital. Despite this, it is still serviced by a range of airlines. From within the Mekong Region, tourists can fly from the following cities into Hanoi:
There is also a train line extending north from Hanoi. Here, passengers can arrive from the city of Nanning in China. These sleeper trains arrive at the Gia Lam Station. There are also several bus companies offering trips to Hanoi from Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos. This journey is quite lengthy and care must be taken to avoid inflated prices.
Those traveling within Vietnam can get to Hanoi by bus, train and air from a number of local destinations including Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Mui Ne, Hue, Lao Cai and Ho Chi Minh City.
The climate is tropical, with wet and hot weather much of the year. But due to the city’s latitude, temperatures drop drastically in the wintertime and the wind chill and dampness means winter weather can feel cold. If possible, avoid the summer months of mid May – mid Sep, as the city turns into a sweltering sauna with little to no wind.
Summer lasts from May to September. During this time, it is normally hot with heavy rain. Temperatures range from 75°F (24°C) to 91°F (33°C). Most of the city’s annual rainfall of 66.1 inches (1,680 mm) falls at this time. Winter lasts from November to March bringing cool, dry weather. During these months, temperatures range from 56°F (13°C) to 73°F (22°C). Throughout the year, humidity ranges from 74% to 83%.