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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)