Viet Nam

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After the division of the country once the French left in the 1950s, Ho Chi Minh resided in Hanoi as president of North Vietnam. The revered former leader’s humble wooden Stilt House, built over a carp pond, is a perfectly preserved traditional dwelling. Also preserved, but not as perfectly, is the man himself. Dead for over 40 years, Uncle Ho’s embalmed body is still on display at the Mausoleum, despite his request to be cremated. File by in silence with hundreds of respectful Vietnamese, straining to get a better view under the watchful eyes of numerous guards.

Legacy of conflict

Long Biên Bridge, just outside HanoiLong Biên Bridge, just outside Hanoi

The last in a long line of interventions, the US bombing of the American War, 1965 to 1973, destroyed swathes of Hanoi city. While the physical damage has long since been repaired, poignant remnants remain, such as Hoa Lo Prison Museum. The sprawling complex was built by the French in 1896 to detain, and often guillotine, Vietnamese revolutionaries; the museum’s focus is on the struggle to shake off the colonial yoke. Ironically dubbed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US pilots incarcerated there, Senator John McCain among them, flight suits and photographs of the era are on display.

Just 4 kilometers outside of the city stands Long Biên Bridge, originally christened Paul Droumer Bridge). Built by the French, the imposing steel bridge was a strategic crossing during the American Vietnamese conflict and remains one on north Vietnam's busiest crossings.

Hanoi’s history is tangible in its atmosphere, as well as its sights. The turmoil of Vietnam’s past and the vitality of its present are reflected in the city’s inimitable character, which is unusually distinctive for a capital.

Read our traveler reviews of Vietnam, browse our collection of small group tours to Vietnam or explore Hanoi on a completely bespoke vacation.

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