Hanoi’s ancient history and modern history live side by side. Ho Chi Minh is remembered alongside old emperors; a roundabout lake is circled by polluting cars; the booming economy is tempered by high prices; and public spaces provide respite from the adventure of crossing a street. Hanoi may be a transit point, but it has enough to hold anyone’s interest.
When you first wake up in the morning, you might not see Hanoi, but you can definitely hear it. This non-stop beep beep beep of motorbikes and cars accompanies the lifting of the nocturnal veil for this city of 6.4 million people. The typical daily grind is best epitomised by the endless flow of traffic around Hoàn Kiếm Lake, located in the centre of the city. This “Lake of the returned sword” is immortalised in legend where Emperor Lê Lợi lost his magic sword to a “Golden Turtle God” who emerged from these waters. The emperor concluded that the sword, which had been instrumental in his victory against the Ming Dynasty, had been reclaimed by the Turtle God, hence the name.
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