Trip to Vietnam: Part 1 (Hanoi)

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to try and explore more places, so a few weeks ago I embarked on an adventure to Vietnam! It was my first time to plan a trip all by myself but surprisingly I enjoyed every minute of the planning stage. I planned the itinerary and chose the sites we were going to visit, so it was such a fulfilling trip because everything went very smoothly. But most importantly, I enjoyed my vacation and I’m eager to share all my experiences with you!

We explored Vietnam by starting from the capital city, Hanoi. Hanoi was actually a pleasant surprise, it was a great place to be in and we certainly did not expect that it would be that cold (thank goodness for layers!). We arrived in the evening and we saw that it was a cool and lively place, especially the area near Hoan Kiem Lake, where most of the establishments and shops are. Even during the night, it’s a lovely place and the people were just very nice to us.

On our first day exploring Hanoi, we went to the Ho Chi Minh complex. This is where several buildings stand, such as Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum (where his well-preserved body is still housed inside), his residence, the Presidential Palace, and the One Pillar Pagoda. Here, we learned about Ho Chi Minh, his life, and his contributions to the country, and it is astonishing because there were also lots of Vietnamese visiting the place; our guide told us that Vietnamese people respect Uncle Ho so much so they are naturally interested in his life.

The Presidential Palace – built by the French for the Indochina Governor, but later designated by the Vietnamese as a palace to house the President. But Ho Chi Minh never lived in this place because he felt like it was too luxurious, and chose to stay in a simpler house near the vicinity.
Uncle Ho's cars on display
The cars on display were given by the Soviet Union to serve Ho Chi Minh.
The house across the pond is the house Ho Chi Minh lived in instead of the Presidential Palace
The house across the pond is the house Ho Chi Minh lived in instead of the Presidential Palace.
The busy One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi. It is a reconstruction of the original, which was several times larger and occupied the whole pond where it stood.
The busy One Pillar Pagoda. It is a reconstruction of the original, which was several times larger and occupied the whole pond where it stood.

After exploring the Ho Chi Minh complex, we went to the Ethnology Museum, where you can get a glimpse into the lives and origins of the different ethnic groups in Vietnam. It is a pretty interesting place with lots of exhibits to see. If you’re interested to look at the exhibits and read all the descriptions, you should allot a couple of hours here since the museum has so much to offer.

The museum's large gallery at the entrance just shows you how multi-ethnic Vietnam is.
The museum’s large gallery at the entrance just shows how multi-ethnic Vietnam is.
Hey, special mention!
Hey, special mention!

We ended the first part of the tour at around noon so we went for a quick lunch and proceeded to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university built in 1070. It was first built to serve as a school for the wealthy and the members of the royal family but nowadays, it is a Confucian temple where students go to pray for their success in their academics.

This kind of environment does seem conducive for studying!
This kind of environment does seem conducive for studying!
There are several altars inside the temple for Confucius and his disciples.
There are several altars inside the temple for Confucius and his disciples.

One of my favorite sites during the whole vacation is in Hanoi, and was our last stop for the day. We visited the Tran Quoc Pagoda, a Buddhist temple located in a small island near Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s one of the oldest temples in Vietnam and one of the most interesting as well, since it has a large Bodhi tree that was said to be taken from the original tree in India where Buddha found enlightenment.

The view of the pagoda from the lake. Isn't it beautiful?
The view of the pagoda from the lake. Isn’t it beautiful?
This majestic structure left a lot of us in awe!
This majestic structure left a lot of us in awe!
There were many people during our visit and a lot of them burned incense before offering their prayers.
There were many people during our visit and a lot of them burned incense before offering their prayers.

After visiting the temple, we listened to some stories about the history of Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant turtle that lives in it (kind of like the Vietnamese version of the Loch Ness Monster). They even showed us photos of the giant turtle and had a preserved body of one that died years ago.

This concludes my Hanoi city tour. Hanoi’s attractions are quite close to each other so it’s easy to tour the city’s main attractions in one day. The ones I wrote about here are the must-see ones, so if ever you decide to visit Hanoi, be sure to visit these places as well! 🙂

(Part 2: Halong Bay coming soon!)

10 Comments

  1. What a fascinating building! It’s so unlike the buildings of the western buildings.
    I recently did some studies about the Vietnam war and learned some about the country’s history, that’s a part of the world we never learn anything about in school over here.

    1. It is definitely fascinating and unusual! But the buildings in Vietnam are very charming in their own way and it makes you curious about their architecture 🙂

      We don’t learn much about Vietnam in school as well, since our history lessons are more focused on the west (given our colonial history). The country’s history is a very rich one, no wonder the people are so proud of their national identity.

  2. Wow, the Presidential Palace is so bright! I love its color, but I can see how it would seem too luxurious to live in. I think it’s interesting that Ho Chi Minh chose to live in a simpler house.

    The Ethnology Museum sounds interesting, and that’s pretty cool that the Temple of Literature can be used by students to pray now. It looks so nice and peaceful.

    I love how the pagoda looks! It’s beautiful! Hanoi sounds like a great place to visit 🙂 Looking forward to the rest!

    1. The Presidential Palace’s color was the first thing that struck me too! It’s a different color combination than the ones I’m used to but it really looks bright and majestic. It’s definitely fitting for a person with a high position in the government. 🙂

  3. Oh my gosh…your post may have changed my decision on opting out visiting Vietnam! Your pictures hold such vibrant colors, history, culture, and architecture. I am in awe with just your pictures so imagine me actually standing in front of it?! I’d probably faint.

    1. Thank you, Connie! 🙂 Do visit Vietnam! It’s a great place to visit with warm people and lovely sights. Hanoi’s attractions are great because they tell so much about the country’s history, plus they’re surrounded by nature. 🙂

  4. These photos are gorgeous. I had a Vietnamese neighbor and we often talked a lot because she babysat my little brother, but I promised one day, I’d visit Vietnam just because she told me wonderful stories about it. 😀 Glad you enjoyed your trip!

    I wish I knew more about Ho Chi Minh, but he seems to be a good man that wanted to do right by his country, at least I think so. I wish I knew more. Now, I wanna research about him. We should have sided with him, because colonialism sucks big time, but I remember that we were scared about communism spreading, but it’s just another idea that became a political system elsewhere. Still, it’s an interesting history, however so dark. Now, I’m rambling!

    Beautiful pictures! ^^

    1. Glad you liked the photos, Michelle! 😀

      Yes, Ho Chi Minh is respected in Vietnam because he was seen as a leader who really served the people and wanted the best for his country. I agree, communism is just another political ideology that was implemented in other countries. I say if it works for them, let them be. Vietnam’s history shows the resilience of the people and I understand why they’re so proud of their heritage; this is truly a nation of survivors. I have no words 🙂

  5. Are those photos taken using your S4? then you don’t have to bring bulky camera anymore! that totally confirms my belief that a good photographer will still take good photo even when they have to use a 3MP camera phone! Vietnam is beautiful and the buildings are unique too ^^ Will totally add it to my to-visit list =)

    1. Yes, I took the photos with my phone! Thank you so much and I’m glad you liked the photos 😀 I hope you get to visit Vietnam someday! I recommend it 🙂

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