Vietnam’s charismatic capital, on the Red River, may be expanding and modernizing at an extraordinary pace, but it’s a great city to explore on foot. Surrounded by parks and tranquil lakes, the core is a medieval Old Quarter – one of the most atmospheric square kilometres in all of Asia – where traditional craftsmen ply their trade in narrow alleyways lined with antique tube and shop-houses.
Uptown, colonial mansions and relaxing cafés flank the boulevards and leafy shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, but the prime attraction in the wider city is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, where the Great Leader’s remains are embalmed in a sombre marble tomb. Other iconic landmarks include the 11th century One Pillar Pagoda, and Temple of Literature; a feast of medieval Vietnamese architecture erected in 1070 AD.
After a busy day’s sightseeing, unwind in one of the city’s traditional Vietnamese restaurants, or catch a performance of old-style puppetry, where performers stand waist-deep in water wielding elaborate fire-breathing dragons and other ornate figures to a soundtrack of exotic live music.