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What to see in Hanoi - Part 3


Hanoi Citadel

Hanoi Citadel was constructed earliest by the Ly dynasty in 1010 and remained the seat of the Vietnamese court until 1810, when Hue became the capital city. The royal palaces and other various structures were largely destroyed by the colonial French in the late 19th century. Some structures remain such as Doan Mon gate and the Flag Tower of Hanoi as well as the steps of Kinh Thien Palace and the Hau Lau (Princess' Palace).



The Vietnamese military command under General Giap, had its headquarters in the citadel in the building known as D67. An underground tunnel enabled the military to flee to other parts in case of a raid.

Construction work for the National Assembly building in 2003 uncovered large remains of the citadel dating back to Thang Long. Some of the remains are now exhibited in the Vietnamese History Museum. Where the planned new National Assembly building should not be located is still open.

Starting in 2000, some of the old French barracks and buildings have been destroyed to make place for a new museum within the citadel.

In 2010 the citadel was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi

Now it is becoming an attractive place to domestic and abroad visitors.


St Joseph's Cathedral

Hanoi Cathedral is very famous not only for its architecture but its beautiful scenery as well. It becomes a place which can not be missed in Hanoi. Hanoi Cathedral is at No.40 Nha Chung Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. It was built on the site of the former Bao Thien Tower, which was famous in the ancient capital of Thang Long under the Ly Dynasty (the 11th and 12th centuries).

Hanoi Cathedral, also known as Saint Joseph's Cathedral, was inaugurated on Christmas Day 1886, two years after its construction. Its design is similar to the architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Many catholic rituals have been held there. A ritual ceremony dedicated to Jesus Christ is held in this cathedral every year on March 19.



The special thing is that space around Hanoi Cathedral is an really ideal meeting place for local residents and foreign visitors in Hanoi, especially youngsters, to get away from the bustle and noise of the city. When it gets darker, groups of friends flock to the space to enjoy themselves. To enjoy this kind of entertainment, you can feast and drink with your friends in this open space. The bell striking from the church at meditative moments sways your mind. That is a great and romantic feeling. Young people have flocked to the cathedral because the church view and tranquil street corners will fuel their romantic liaison. Couples hand in hand show their love. Others regard it as a playground for chatting or a stage for music performances.

Many famous artists and movie stars can be seen in this special place. Pianist Pho An My has the habit of sitting in the church yard to enjoy a cup of tea with ice and play her favorite pieces. “It is not necessary to go to the theatre to enjoy a music concert; a pageant show will undoubtedly bring a wind of change to the audience”, said the famous artist.

If you are a young person in Hanoi or nearby, you should not miss a chance to discover the underlying real scene of the city by once setting your foot into the space of Hanoi Cathedral


Vietnam Military History Museum

Address : 28A, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

The Vietnam Military History Museum, also known as the War or Army Museum, has a comprehensive and stimulating collection of war relics charting Vietnam's struggle for liberation. If you are only going to see and discover one war museum in Vietnam this should be it. Visitors are often interested in this museum when coming to Vietnam.

The museum is arranged in a series of galleries that start with the period of Chinese colonization, through to the French period and then on to the American War and more recent skirmishes. There is a lot to see, so pace yourself, or decide what is really of interest to you. If you are mainly interested in the American War, you may have to skip through some of the earlier exhibits, or risk being too overloaded with information to really appreciate it.

Inside, The displays are generally well done and sometimes fascinating with more than the usual collection of guns, spears, and ammo, as well as a good deal of photojournalism and historical background provided in English (history as seen through the eyes of the Vietnamese government, naturally, but still interesting).

Outside, at the back of the museum, a huge pyramid has been put together by an artist out of the wreckage of a B-52, an F-111 and a French transport plane, all of which were shot down. At the centre is a billboard-sized photographic blow up of a female Viet Cong soldier dragging the wing of an American plane across the beach: It is sort of 'pop art' meets 'socialist realism' and the whole effect is graphically dynamic and strangely resonant.



Other tools of war are more traditionally displayed: a MIG fighter, a surface-to-air missile and plenty of spent ordnance. Alongside the Military Museum is a 59m high ancient flag tower ( called Hanoi Flag Tower) that marks what was once Hanoi's tallest point. From here, Visitors can enjoy unbeatable panoramic views of the city. Watch your head on the climb up though. The flag tower was once part of the Hanoi Citadel built in 1812.

When you leave the museum, take a look across the street, where there is a park featuring a monumental statue of Lenin or Visit monumental statue of Lenin.


Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum

Address : 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Ba Dinh district, Hanoi.

Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum set behind the Temple of Literature, this is a sight that travelers often visit much. It is one of the best in Vietnam and a visit will provide a good insight into Vietnamese culture and history.

The main building is a large, three-storey colonial style building -- a work of art in itself -- which contains the permanent exhibits, arranged chronologically from bottom to top .

When you enter, the first room contains some truly ancient archaeological finds that are up to 10,000 years old. Many are just old bits and pieces such as axe and spear heads and small figurative pieces, but they are impressively old and fascinatingly intricate in design. The 'rubbings' of drum heads are uninspiring and it's better to view the actual drums at the History Museum.

Continuing to the right is a very good overview of Vietnamese art before 1800, and the offerings become much more interesting as you complete the first floor circuit. All the exhibits are generally well-captioned, though look closely : Some works are reproductions (and not very good ones at that) and are labelled as such.

Gallery five in the back houses some exquisite offerings from the Le dynasties, including two large renderings of the Bodhisattva and the 'thousand-eyed, thousand armed' goddess Guan Yin. These are stock figures at many Buddhist temples, but the ones here represent the apogee of the form in Vietnam, and are mind-bogglingly intricate in design. There is also a 'Buddha Entering Nirvana' or 'Reclining Buddha' made of lacquered wood that is so sensuously feminine in design, one wonders if the artist were really trying to communicate the bliss of nirvana or some other kind of bliss.

The last stop on the first floor -- gallery eight -- houses some of the best art Vietnam has ever produced. The Tay Son dynasty didn't last long, towards the end of the 1700s, but the realistic, figurative sculpture from this period is outstanding. Much Larger than life and made of lacquered wood, each has an eerie presence and a strong personality. They are all meant to be monks, but it's suspected that the artists of the period were using the pretext of religious art to express something about human nature and the plight of the common people.

The visual arts are more heavily represented on the upper floors than are the plastic arts, but some sculptures are positioned here and there. Much of it seems to imitate European trends, though more authentically Asian works on rice paper, such as 'A Carp Playing with the Moon', offer a more stirring aesthetic experience. By the time the Communist era begins, all bets are off as socialist realism takes over and the art becomes about as meaningful as a mailbox (though, some of it shows considerable technique and is really pretty to look at). Every gallery features a flip book with very detailed information in English, French, Japanese and Chinese.

The three-storey annex to the left as you enter houses temporary exhibits. While the first floor has a permanent display of ceramics, the two floors above change periodically -- on our last visit in early 2010, there were displays of pop art and Vietnamese decorative arts.

A store on premises sells reproductions and if you are a serious art collector, some of the contemporary art on display can be purchased by special arrangement.

The Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum has become a prime tourist destination

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21 Day Vietnam/Cambodia tour


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