Ahoy, Hanoi!

Updated: 2013-07-28 12:28

By Hilton Yip (China Daily)

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Ahoy, Hanoi!

Hanoi's Old Quarter, a maze of streets packed with restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops, is busy, noisy and scenic.

The Military History Museum features exhibits from ancient wars to the 20th-century conflicts against France and the US. The star attractions are the Vietnam War-era tanks and aircraft outside.

Next to the museum is the Imperial Citadel, a UN World Heritage Site, the palace of Vietnam's emperors before the 19th century. Damaged by past wars, the existing structures are just a small part of the original citadel, though more remains are being excavated.

The best known among Hanoi's temples is the Temple of Literature. Built in 1070, this temple is used to worship Confucius and served as a university - the Imperial Academy, to be precise - until 1802. It played vital roles in religion and education.

The temple is in a large rectangular compound with pleasant gardens, a series of courtyards and the main worship halls at the rear. There are many Chinese inscriptions on the temple's gates, gardens and steles that bear past scholars' names.

The most famous American who was shot down in Hanoi is John McCain, the former senator and presidential candidate.

McCain was held in the Hoa Lo prison, called the "Hanoi Hilton" by Americans. The prison is now a museum, and John McCain's flight suit is on display. The prison was built in the late 20th century by the French to jail Vietnamese independence advocates, and the bleak conditions are fully preserved.

Going back to the beginning, I did cross the road easily. As Trang showed me, what looked foolhardy is actually very manageable.

No mad dash or slow crawl is required. Just look carefully, step onto the road and walk steadily ahead. Vehicles will adjust their speed accordingly, and you'll make it across safely.

I would say that's how I felt about Hanoi - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Ahoy, Hanoi!

Photo by Hilton Yip / for China Daily