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Hanoi - Vietnam

Hanoi Streets Hoan Kiem LakeOld Quarter, HanoiHanoi traffic

Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi lies in the north of the country in the Red River delta. Hanoi has been capital of Vietnam for a thousand years and has evolved into a confusing mix of tradition and modern life.

At first Hanoi is harsh and brash, with a constant press of people and noise but perservering shows this to be the charm of the city. The old quarter is chaotic at times with the narrow streets each given over to traditional trades from brightly coloured funeral offerings to metalwork and musical instruments. This segregation has continued with food shops, tobacco and toy shops all clustered together too.

The heart of the city is the Hoan Kiem lake, separating the busy old quarter with the more elegant colonial French quarter. A busy road surrounds the lake, but inside of this is surprisingly calm. A small temple stands on an island on the lake while a second island hold the iconic Tortoise Tower.

The Temple of Literature is another peaceful oasis in the busy city. This Confucian sanctuary was Vietnam's first University and holds stone records of examinations taken over 500 years ago. The complex is a series of gates and temples separated by lakes, gardens and courtyards.

Part of Hanoi's charm is seeing everyday life in the city. Hundreds of motorbikes run along every street piled high with all manner of goods and beeping horns the whole time. Market stalls seem to be drive through with riders pulling up to buy things without getting off their bikes. Busy street cafes fill the pavements serving cheap hot noodles or drinks on tiny plastic stools. Women carrying woven baskets on yokes walk the streets, some selling fruit and vegetables while others have miniture kitchens they can set up anywhere.

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