Hanoi Things to Do Tips by Greggor58
Hanoi Things to Do: 921 reviews and 2,081 photos
One Pillar Pagoda,Ba Dinh District,Ha Noi,Vietnam.
Situated about a ten minute walk from Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum or the Ba Dinh Square visiting here offers one a chance to sit and relax in a park like setting on benches that line the perimeter of the man made lake where the pagoda sits.
Its unique design is of a three square meter wooden structure resembling a “lotus blossom”, the Buddhist symbol of Enlightenment. It sits on a concrete support (pillar) that replaces the original wooden one.
The original structure is thought to date from about 1049 during the Ly dynasty but the factual history is not clear. The pagoda has been damaged and restored many times. The last major demolition came at the hands of the French in 1954 and since then has been re-built into the version that you see today.
I sat and did some people watching here for a little while, and did not venture to look inside because of the flow of people making prayer.
There's a small stand where you can buy drinks and snacks to enjoy if you decide to sit and relax for a while.
Access to the pagoda is 0800 AM to 1700 PM daily and there is no charge to access the grounds where the pagoda is located
Address: is Ong Ich Kiem Street
Directions: Ba Dinh District about a ten minute walk from the Ba Dinh Square.
Phone: 84 4 942 1061
National War Memorial,Ba Dinh District,Ha Noi.
Located directly in line with the mausoleum of Ho Chi Min across the busy Hung Vuong Street you’ll find this simple but important Memorial, built in the 1990’s to honor the people that lost they’re lives fighting for Vietnamese Independence.
When you’re visiting Ba Dinh Square or Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum you can take a few minutes….yes you’ll have to cross the street without a stop light…and visit this site.
It’s quite impressively designed in the midst of plenty of green space.
Address: Hung Vuong Street
Directions: Across the street from the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum
Ba Dinh Square,Ha Noi,Vietnam.
These attractions can be grouped together in that Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is situated on the edge of the Ba Dinh Square.
The square itself is a wide open and paved space and the focal point is of course the mausoleum and a giant flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. There is a large grassy area with pathways separating Hung Vuong Street and the paved area of the square.
The square is where Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence to a crowd of a half million people on the 2nd of September, 1945 and it is here at Ba Dinh Square that “Independence” is celebrated with military parades each year on National Day, September 2nd.
I didn’t visit the interior of the mausoleum as it was a FRIDAY and it’s NOT OPEN to the public on FRIDAYS.
If it’s YOUR intention to pay respects to Ho Chi Minh then don’t expect to be able to if you’re visiting on a FRIDAY…
I was more curious than anything and I was quite happy to see a place that pays homage to such a revered man in the history of Vietnamese culture and history. I'm pretty sure that I would not really want to pay a visit to his corpse anyhow. The guards that are on duty are smartly dressed in clean white uniforms and in spite of some comments that I’ve read about the ugliness of the building I was impressed with the strength it portrayed, at least in my eyes.
You can get yourself to Ba Dinh Square by following Hung Vuong Street , there is vehicle stopping permitted just west of Hung Vuong on a side street named Ong Ich Khiem St. I used a Xe Onm to get myself there, and walked around the area.
In addition to these two attractions you are within easy walking distance to the National War Memorial, The One Pillar Pagoda, and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
Address: 1 Ong Ich Khiem St, Ba Dinh District,Ha Noi
Directions: Ba Dinh District
Phone: 84 4 3845 5128
Ngoc Son Temple,Hoan Kiem Lake ,Ha Noi,Vietnam.
This is another “attraction”, something interesting to see when you’re exploring the Hoan Kiem Lake area. The temple is located basically on the north east side of the lake and is easily recognized by the colorful two towered gateway that serves as it entranceway. The gate itself is known as Tam Quan or “Three Passage Gate” and it leads to Huc Bridge, the infamous red lacquered bridge that is so often associated with modern day Ha Noi.
The Ngoc Son is also known as the Jade Mountain Temple and was last modified in the 1800’s and was initially built to honor a 13th century military figure Tran Hung Dao, and scholar Van Xuong, Tran Hung Dao was responsible for protecting the northern borders of what is now Vietnam during the Mongol Resistance Wars of the 1250’s
Nguyen Van Sieu was the man that was instrumental in its restoration in 1864. Van Sieu was responsible for the additions of the Tower that sits on a rock mound just inside the Tam Quan. The tower, named Thap But is a 30 foot high symbolic representation of a “paint brush”, sometimes referred to as the “Pen Tower”
In addition to this a part of his design is a shaped rock found close by that is meant to be symbolic of a “writing pad” so illustrating the constant connection seen in Vietnam between the artist and religion in this culture.
You can see here two completely different altars both ornately decorated and designed as well as a statue of Quan Vu and many religious symbols . There is also a stuffed turtle that can be seen here, supposedly found dead in the lake in 1968 . If you’ve been reading her at VT you know of the myth connecting the Lake with a turtle and this is a specimen that once inhabited the lake.
The smallish yet colorful temple, so close the lake, provides a little interlude from the hectic pace of the traffic filled streets so close by. There are benches set along the perimeter of the site next to the water so you can sit and relax after you’ve had a look inside.
I visited here twice during my time here in Ha Noi and its well worth the time to investigate.
Access to the temple is a mere 10 000 Dong…about a half dollar USA equivalent. And you can visit every day from 0800 – 1700.
Directions: North east shore of the lake...access off the walkway that circumvents the lake
Ngoc Son Temple,Hoan Kiem Lake,Ha Noi, Vietnam.
Hoan Kiem Lake, smack in the downtown core, is a large lake surrounded by urban landscape, roads, businesses, walkways; it’s a central gathering place in the center of the city. People come here to socialize, to talk, to do business, and
relax a little.. As early as pre dawn on any given day hundreds of people are exercising and have already started they’re days here, walking, jogging, and stretching. Along the banks of the lake there are more than a few historical sites that are connected to the long history of the city and its all FREE to enjoy!
“The Lake of the Restored Sword” is connected to the legend connecting Le Thai To a name assumed by the infamous Le Loi who fought the occupying Chinese armies. Le Thai To was essentially a “resistance” fighter that fought to rid the country of Chinese occupiers…
Le Thai To or Le Loi , according to the legend was in a boat out on the lake with an entourage. A golden tortoise appeared and requested that Le Thai To return the sacred sword that he had fought the Chinese invaders with to the King of the Sea. The sword had been lent to him. As the tortoise spoke the sword “left” its sheath and flew towards the tortoise. The tortoise took the sword in its mouth and dove under the water as a bright flash of lightning lit up the sky. Since then the lake has been called Lake of the Returned Sword or Ho Guom for short. It’s certainly a good plot for a movie I think.
Some other places of interest here or CLOSE to the lake that you can explore include the “Turtle Tower” or Thap Rua and the Ngoc Son Pagoda. In addition to these attractions get yourself across Le Thai To street on the west side of the lake and you can find and spend some time at a Memorial and Temple dedicated to Le Thai To himself.
You can sit and relax all along the lake, enjoying the views, watching people going about they’re lives, buy an ice cream cone or enjoy a coffee. There are many areas where benches exist and some café’s or you can walk around the lake, taking it all in..its not a strenuous walk and takes about forty minutes, depending how slow or fast you walk.
Come see for yourself what Hoan Kiem Lake offers, visit it at different times of the day and Im sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty unique attraction that oozes culture of the people of Ha Noi.
Address: Hoan Kiem Lake District
Communal House,33 Pho Bat Dan,Old Quarter,Ha Noi.
Scattered throughout the Old Quarter you can find more than a few Communal Houses that are so attached to the culture of the people of Vietnam and Ha Noi.
Communal Houses in Vietnam have been in existence for hundreds of years. Initially as Chinese peoples moved southwards into what is now Vietnam these “Dinh Lang” or what today is referred to as communal houses were established in most communities to plan the economic and social development and other activities of the communities that they served. Communal Houses also served as places for worship for the community “founding fathers”.
This is true also in the early years in the development of the “communities” found within what is today the Old Quarter. As mentioned in other tips referring to the Old Quarter, each street was the central location of a particular trade or guild and in effect these were independent “communities. This is one of the reasons that there are so many small communal houses seen throughout the Old Quarter of Ha Noi.
I stopped briefly at two of them. One can be seen at 33 Pho Bat Dan…and the other at 85 Hang Gai …both structures are simple yet elegant in there own way and VERY colorful.
Do take the time to take a look at these small and ornately decorated places that are so unique and significant to the culture of the people of Ha Noi.
The ones that I visited were free of charge to access.
Address: 33 Pho Bat Dan...85 Hang Gai...
Directions: Old Quarter, Ha Noi.
Temple of Literature,Ha Noi,Vietnam.
The Temple of Literature was for me, the single most enjoyable “sight” that I was able to spend time at during my brief stay in Ha Noi.
I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours that I took to walk the grounds here. Van Mieu or the Temple of Literature as it is commonly known as offers a small sanctuary in the heart of the city, its peaceful, beautiful, and in my mind screams “Serenity”.
I spent time here wandering around, taking photos and just soaking up as much of the ambiance that I could. I didn’t rush this at all. I spent time talking with a man that had shared our train berth North to Lao Cai…he recognized me amidst the small crowd and we connected again here and swapped stories about our travels in the Sa Pa region of Vietnam. I sat and wrote some postcards in the Courtyard of the Sage Sanctuary and explored some more.
Van Mieu is one of, if not , the oldest surviving structures of Ha Noi, having been established in the year 1070,orignaly built to honor Confucius, as a place of worship.
Within a few years this revered place took on a different role, that being a place of education for the growing numbers of mandarins involved in civil service, essentially becoming Vietnam's first university.
The temple design is modeled after The Temple of Confucius in the Chinese city of Qufu and is designed to include five different courtyards. Each courtyard is separated by walls and ornamental gateways (each gateway possessing its own elaborate name) and pathways that lead you successively through each gate, and into the next courtyard.
The main elements of this site are the Khue Van Cac Pavillion and the Well of Heavenly Clarity where you will see the remaining steale that line the sides of the pond that are inscribed with the names and birth places, and accomplishments of some of the “graduates” of the school. The Great House of Ceremonies and the Dai Thanh sanctuary are also main features as well as two smaller structures that house a large drum and in the other, a large brass bell.
The entrance fee for the complex is a staggering 10 000 Dong…about a half dollar USA…
Access hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 16:30…
Address: Quoc Tu Giam St.
Le Thai To Memorial,Hoan Kiem Lake,Ha Noi,Vietnam.
A stones throw away on the western shore of Hoan Kiem Lake you can find another small sanctuary, a beautiful Memorial , and Temple dedicated to the memory of Le Thai To , the central figure in the legend of the “Lake of the Restored Sword”. The Memorial itself was built in about 1896.
Le Thai To was to become the Emperor of Vietnam and is considered to be the founder of the “Later Le Dynasty”, a period in the history of Vietnam that spanned the years between 1428 to 1788. The reign of Le Thai To was seemingly short, from about 1428 to about 1433.
His significance in the history of Vietnam is not just as a “freedom fighter” but because it was during his reign, after the Chinese were ousted from the lands of Vietnam, that China finally recognized Vietnam as an independent state. The Le Thai To government rebuilt the infrastructure of Vietnam: roads, bridges and canals. Land was rewarded to soldiers that contributed in the war against the Ming and new currency was minted and new laws and reforms were passed.
The Memorial is nicely designed with a statue of the man set high on a pedestal, and at the base, a small garden and shrine. One climbs a short three tiered stairway to the main level and behind you can visit a small Temple dedicated to his honor.
It’s just a tiny site but so worth taking a look, it has a view of Hoan Kiem Lake and benches along the side of the grounds to sit and relax. It’s just a nice place to sit and relax for a little while and so close to Hoan Kiem Lake that you really should check this out.
Access is FREE...although there is a "donation box" to be found at the Temple.
Address: Le Thai To Street,West side of Hoan Kiem Lake
Tran Quoc Pagoda,West Lake (Ho Tay),Ha Noi.
This is supposedly one of the oldest Pagodas that you’ll find in Ha Noi itself…originally built, according to “legend’ during the reign of Ly Nam De in the Sixth Century and moved to its present location during the 1600,s. It was built initially on the banks of the Red River, which is really very close by, but moved here to Kim Ngu Island because of unstable ground that it was built on.
The setting of this Pagoda is quite beautiful and after your visit you can take a stroll along the banks of West Lake, buy an ice cream or enjoy a nice drink that you can purchase from any of the vendors that are available on the shore outside of the Pagoda. Do make this a stopover during your time in Ha Noi for what I thought was a unique experience!
Tran Quoc is a symbol of Buddhism in Vietnam and has been reconstructed many times. The last major rehabilitation of the site was completed in 1815.The morning I was visiting there were three crews on the site painting and cleaning, I would imagine preparations for the upcoming Tet celebrations. Other than the unique design of the Pagoda, Tran Quoc is noted for its statue of Sakyamuni Buddha's Parinirvana., which is constructed and finished in red lacquer and trimmed with gold.
Sakyamuni is a title given to Buddha that means ‘Sage of the Sakyas”.
There is also to be seen ,an ancient stele created in 1639 by Doctoral lau- Nguyen Xuan Chinh that records the history of the Pagoda itself.
In 1959 visiting Indian Prime Minister Razendia Prasat presented a gift of a bodhi tree to the Pagoda which was grafted from the same tree under which Sakyamuni sat in meditation some 25 centuries ago.This still stands here and can also be seen.
Access is daily and if there was a charge for access I don’t remember paying.
Address: Thanh Nien Road
Directions: Access from Thanh Nien Road, West Lake (Ho Tay)
Hoa Lo Prison
As I mention earlier in my “intro” page of Ha Noi one of the first memories of hearing the name Ha Noi comes from seeing images of American pilots that were imprisoned here during the course of the “American War”.
Making a visit here was kind of an obligatory “mission”.
What remains of the structure, most of it has been demolished to make way for modern development, is yet ANOTHER frightening testimony to mans inhumanity to man.
The prison was built by the French in 1896 and covered a land area of almost 13 000 square meters. When it was constructed it was one of the largest prisons in all of Indochina.
The original intent was to incarcerate “troublemakers”, those who opposed French rule, so called political prisoners.
Originally it was built to hold a population of about 450 people. This magic number was quickly exceeded and long story short…by about 1933 its population had swollen to about 1400 prisoners and by 1954 it held more than 2000 people.
The conditions were barbaric by any standard and today when you visit you can see what a cell would look like; photographs of incarcerated people chained together, exhibits that leave nothing to the imagination, and finally the notorious guillotine that was used to execute prisoners.
There are different sections that include Memorials to those that lost they’re lives here, there’s a section that lists the names of most if not all prisoners that walked through the doors here at one time or another, and there’s a separate section that covers the history of the prison during the American War when, shot down American pilots were incarcerated here. There’s a small shop where books can be purchased that outlines the French and American conflicts and other odds and ends.
There is a Memorial situated in an outdoor area of the Prison where joss sticks are burnt. This Memorial is quite graphic in some ways and definitely is more than a small gesture of Honor, Respect, and “eternal” Gratitude.
Entrance to the prison is only 10 000 Dong…about the equivalent of fifty cents USA…and there are no restrictions on photography.
Address: 1 Hoa Lo Street
Directions: Hoan Kiem District, Off Quan Su Street
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