Capital city of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and home to three million Hanoians. Perhaps the most beautiful capital city in Southeast Asia, thanks to the local authorities appreciating urban beauty before developers came in the 1990s.

The city is on the south west bank of the wide Red River (Song Hong). Hanoi is intersperced with several lakes, making the city heaven for a romantic landscape artist, and hell for an urban traffic planner. It is also vulnerable to flooding, not helped when illegal houses are built on top of dykes.

The city centre is built around the supposively turtle-inhabited Lake Hoan Kiem. South of the lake is where most of the new office buildings are being built. To the north is the old quarter where tradesmen live and work in narrow laneways, and each street is named after a specialised product. The political and military power is clustered further north in the Ba Dinh district. At a huge square is the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, which contains Uncle Ho on ice.

The old city started off as a Chinese administered trading area 2,000 years ago. Emperor Ly Thai To settled here in 1010 naming the place Thanh Long (City of the Soaring Dragon). It remained the capital for the subsequent Le dynasty until 1788, when the Nguyen dynasty took power and moved the capital down the road to Hue. In 1983, Emperor Tu Duc renamed Thanh Long to 'Hanoi', which creatively means 'the city in the bend of a river'. The French used Hanoi as the administrative capital of all Indochina from 1902 to 1953, before the Viet Minh took over. Hanoi suffered some bombing during the Vietnam War.

Attractions in Hanoi include the Temple of Literature (built 1070), the 18th century Ngoc Son Temple, the Ambassador's Pagoda, the Hanoi Opera, the Hai Ba Trung temple (built 1042), several museums devoted to the Vietnamese revolution and a troope that puts on water puppet shows.

There are several hotels in Hanoi, including the tactfully named Hanoi Opera Hilton Hotel.

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