Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and, arguably, the most Asian city in Southeast Asia. Its character is a subtle blend of indigenous and colonial influence, particularly that of the French, and the result is a totally unique city that leaves a lasting impression on all who venture here.
While the majority of tourists arriving in Vietnam touch down in Ho Chi Minh City, more and more are choosing to start their exploration of the country in the north, not only to steep themselves in historic Hanoi, but also to trek among brightly-coloured hilltribes in the Tonkinese Alps and to glide over the tranquil waters of nearby Halong Bay, surrounded by enormous limestone outcrops.
Hanoi facts: Though much is being made of Hanoi’s 1,000th birthday in 2010, the area which Hanoi now occupies has been inhabited since around 3,000BC. The significance of the year 1010 is that Ly Thai To, the first ruler of the Ly dynasty, designated this to be the capital of Dai Viet (former name of Vietnam) in that year.
Hanoi facts: Ly Thai To named the city Thang Long (ascending dragon) as he supposedly saw a dragon soaring up towards heaven. In previous incarnations, the city was also known as Tong Binh and Long Do. The name Hanoi means ‘city at the bend in the river’, as it sits on a bend on the right bank of the Red River.
Hanoi facts: The city is located at 21°N and 105°E near the head of the Red River Valley, one of the country’s most fertile regions. It sits less than six metres above sea level and is prone to flooding between July and October.
Hanoi facts: Estimates of the city’s population vary between three and seven million, though the latter is nearer the mark. In November 2008, several surrounding provinces were swallowed up by Greater Hanoi, doubling the city’s population at a stroke. Projections suggest it will rise to 15 million by 2020.
Hanoi facts: Though the expanded city area now covers around 1,000 square kilometers, its principal attractions are all located within a relatively compact central area, making it convenient for sightseeing.