Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is an eclectic mix of ancient tradition and modern progress. More than 1,000 years old, it juxtaposes a stunning wilderness against ancient temples, crumbling citadels, and massive high-rises.
Any visit to Hanoi must include an excursion on Ha Long Bay.
Halong Bay, translated as “where the dragon descends into the sea,” is shrouded in legend. According to the story, this cluster of thousands of tiny limestone islands was created when a great dragon came down from the mountains and charged towards the coast, gouging out valleys and crevasses with its flailing tail as it went. When the dragon finally ended its journey and plunged into the sea, it caused the water in the Gulf of Tonkin to rise up, leaving only the pinnacles of each island showing.
A World Heritage Site, the Halong Bay is as beautiful as the story which provides its name. Visitors delight in exploring its mysterious caves, to explore, canoeing, swimming and kayaking in its emerald waters, stopping at the Floating Village and simply cruising by junk or excursion boat.
And after you’ve taken your fill of the bay, there are countless other fascinating sites and activities worthy of your time and attention in Hanoi. Unique to Vietnam, and prevalent throughout Hanoi, are the fascinating water puppet theaters, where hidden puppet masters slide and glide their puppets effortlessly and gracefully across the liquid stage in this ancient art form that is both complex and impressive in its intricacy.
Make a stop at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was the center of ancient Hanoi and also served as the political center there for eight centuries.
And don’t miss the Perfume Pagoda, a dramatic temple complex thought to have been built sometime in the 15th century. This impressive structure was actually built into a mountainside and contains a maze of alleyways which have been carved into the surrounding rock face, with beautiful green forests and flowing streams surrounding its walls. One of the most wonderful things about the Pagoda is the fact that the journey to reach it is as compelling and memorable as the site itself.
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