Reading up on your holiday-destinations can sometimes be a good idea. Or at least, so I thought.

Any presentation of Vietnams capital included images of a nice, tranquil city with bright colours and a lush vegetation.

I know I am being unfair to expect these things of a city at this latitude in February, but at least some colour, some tranquillity and some vegetation should have been visible.

For a first-time visitor Hanoi is the quintessential oriental city with all its smells and its chaos.

Spending just two days there is of course not enough to get to know the place but you do have time for a few out of the ordinary experiences.

There is a lot of water, ponds and streams in Hanoi as it sits on a bend in the Red River (Sông đỏ). The name Hanoi literally means Surrounded by River. Actually two of the most famous landmarks are bridges; Long Bien, an iron bridge across the red River and the wooden bridge Huc Bridge, which spans Hoan Kiem lake.

Long Bien Bridge
Huc Bridge

It's TET-time

The whole city, or rather the whole country is getting ready to celebrate TET, or the Lunar New Year. There are decorations everywhere in red yellow and gold. 

An Heritage from the Communist Era

A must for any visitor to Hanoi is the Ho Chi Mihn memorial. Ho Chi Mihn, or Uncle Ho (Bac Ho in vietnamese) is still recognized by all as the father of the nation. The Party is loseing its grip on the mindset of the people but Ho is still revered.

The whole thing is a massive concretre construction buildt in what can best be described as Soviet Brutalism. 

The Presidential Palace was originally buildt fro the French Governor but is the Party Headquarters. It is being said that Ho himself was a very modest man and that he never actually lived in the palace, though that may well be part of the myth build up around him.

The actual residence of Ho Chi Mihn

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