This year, I re-visited Hanoi in February (yes, this post is a little late). The last time I was here, our stay was rather short as we had visited Ha Long Bay as well for an unforgettable boat ride amongst the karst landscape. This time round, we spent the time solely in Hanoi.
The key highlight of this visit was, for me, undoubtedly the visit to the ancient imperial citadel of Thang Long. Abandoned when the Emperor moved the capital to Hue, most of the citadel was destroyed and the site and remaining buildings were occupied by the French military and thereafter, the ministry of defence of independent Vietnam. It was finally re-opened to the public as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010, to mark the 1000th anniversary of Hanoi. So, it would not have been open during my last visit to Hanoi.
Most of the citadel was destroyed, and newer buildings built over them (excavation works are in progress, revealing the older ruins beneath). But, some old buildings do remain such as Doan Mon (the main gate), the flag tower, the women's quarters etc. I was amused to see the ladies' quarters had no windows on the ground floor! Just goes to show the attitudes towards women in those days.
It was also nice to see the student groups coming to the Citadel to take their graduation photos. The girls were dressed in their beautiful flowing ao dais, just as they would have done throughout the years...
We also spent some time visiting Hoan Kiem lake. I'd been there before but somehow the lake, in the centre of the Old Quarter, exercises a magnetic pull, bringing everyone to it. The last time I was here, I spent just one night in the Old Quarter and this time I took care to make sure that we were in the heart of it. It was certainly more handy to get to the food, the night life and the spas in the area! The Old Quarter is partially pedestrianised weekend nights and so everyone spills out of the shops and eateries onto the streets. Right in front of our hotel too!
|Vibrant street scene in the Old Quarter, Hanoi|
We also had rather nice meals, including a fancy French dinner at La Badiane (named after the humble star anise).
|Our degustation meal at La Badiane|