Vietnam's lovely capital is a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and public park. With narrow alleyways lined with shophouses selling traditional handicrafts and art, the old center is an enchanting place to wander.
Ha Noi has a elegance, a grace, unlike any other city in Asia. It is a stately capital, an old grande dame whose worn beauty hints at untold stories - a secret past. It is a city that invites nostalgia, just as it invites questions: who once lived in that pround colonial villa? Who lives there now? In the wide, tree-lined boulevards of the French Quater, the past is palpable. History clings to the sun-drenched walls like moss. But the fine colonial mansions are but one layer of history.
Strolling around the little lake in the heart of Ha Noi, where legends grow thicker than water lilies, you will get a sence of the city's true cultural depth. One muth tells of a golden turtle, which rose from the lake's green depths to present Vietnam's king with a magical sword, used to repel northern invader in the 15th century.
Ha Noi's position as Vietnam's capital dates back 1010, when Emperor Ly Thai To established the court of Thang Long ( Ascending Dragon ) on this site. Later, the Emperor Tu Duc chrisened it Ha Noi ( City in a Bend of the River ) in 1831. Then, from 1902 to 1953 Ha Noi was the capital of French Indochina. Vietnam's long struggle for independence and its birth asw s socialist state are commemorated in many of the city's museums and monuments, the most famous of which is President Ho Chi Minh's imposing stone mausoleum.