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If you have a chance to visit Vietnam, you will not be stuck for things to do in Hanoi ( the capital of Vietnam), where ancient and proudly preserved Vietnamese culture is felt most keenly by tourist and progress wrestles with tradition in different areas of the city.  Hanoi is a city with more than 1000 years old so the wealth of its history is mind boggling: ancient citadels, temples, unique theater, and stunning wilderness just outside the city all offer fun-filled days in Vietnam’s capital. These are a plenty of attractions where you can visit in Hanoi because they all offer beauty, entertainment, and education at different turns. Enjoy our list of Top 10 following things to see in Hanoi.

  1. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Thang Long Imperial Citadel is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and signifying its cultural and historical importance, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The central flag tower which stands 40 meters high is the most recognizable feature of the Imperial Citadel and is usually used as a symbol of Hanoi. This was the center of ancient Hanoi and served as the political center for eight centuries. Being in Ba Dinh, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is close to many other tourist attractions. It is opened daily 8:00 – 12:30  and 13:30 – 19:30. It is an interesting place that you should go one time.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

  1. Water puppet theater

Water puppet theater which is an ancient art form of entertainment has a long association with Hanoi. There are lots of theaters where traveler can enjoy this uniquely Vietnamese take on Asia’s puppet tradition. The original theater in town is the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. Water puppet means that puppets dance and slide elegantly over the liquid stage, controlled by a whole troupe of puppet masters who hide behind a screen. Most shows also feature the famous legend of the Restored Sword of King Le telling the tale of Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant tortoise. It is opened daily 15:00, 16:10, 17:20, 18:30 and 20:00 at 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

Water puppet theater - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Water puppet theater – Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

  1. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh left an indelible mark on Vietnamese history and he is revered in Hanoi as the country’s greatest leader. Uncle Ho’s preserved body is now laid to rest in a glass case in Ba Dinh district of Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is more than a tourist attraction, it’s a part of living history and a visit here stays long in the memory. The somber building was modeled after Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow. The Mausoleum is opened from Tuesday to Thursday from 07:30 to 10:30, Saturday and Sunday from 07:30 to 11:00.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

  1. The Perfume Pagoda

This Pagoda is a dramatic temple complex which was first built in the 15th century. These ancient Buddhist temples were built in a green mountain range in a maze of alleyways which are carved into the rock with rich forests and flowing streams all around as well. Located about 60km to the South of Hanoi in the Son Mountains, the journey here is an experience for you. However, you must take a 2-hour journey by car or bus before traveling by boat to the foot of the mountains. The Perfume Pagoda is opened daily from 06:30 to 17:00.

The Perfume Pagoda - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

The Perfume Pagoda.

  1. Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple

Hoan Kiem Lake, Turtle Lake or Sword Lake is a central feature of Hanoi and a popular hangout spot throughout the day with locals and visitors. Ngoc Son Temple which is on a small island in the center of the lake and linked by a The Huc Bridge makes a beautiful background for a few photos. Around sunrise and sunset, this area becomes very busy with joggers, couples enjoying the relaxing views of the lake and line dancing. Hoan Kiem Lake is completely  free of charge, but there is a fee of VND 30,000 (about $1.2) for a ticket to visit Ngoc Son Temple, which sits on a small island in the center of the lake.

Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple.

  1. Dong Xuan Market

This market is the largest one in Hanoi and is one of the most places that you should go if you have chances to visit Hanoi. Within four-storey Soviet-style building, this sprawling complex offers an extensive collection of apparel, fashion, and souvenirs at some of the best prices in the city. Even if you are not interested in printed T-shirts or cheap sunglasses, it is still fascinating because you will have chances to see the comings and goings of the local traders. There is a wet market on the ground floor where the sights and smells of exotic produce assault the senses. Dong Xuan Market is opened daily from 06:00 to 19:00. That is a good choice for you when you go to Hanoi.

Dong Xuan Market - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Dong Xuan Market – Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

  1. Hanoi Old Quarter

This is one of the most attracting areas of Hanoi where visitors can enjoy a plenty of fine examples of colonial architecture packed along narrow streets. Endless packs of scooters, , motorbikes, bicycles and cars weave around traders which sells fruit and souvenirs or even narrow shop houses sell delicious Vietnamese food for pennies. Hanoi Old Quarter brings to life what a lot of people imagine Hanoi to be. Exploring this area on foot is also highly recommended for all visitors to Vietnam’s capital city.

Hanoi Old Quarter - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Hanoi Old Quarter – Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

  1. Ba Vi National Park

This is a nature reserve of stunning beauty which is around two hours ( about 48 kilometers) from downtown Hanoi. Ba Vi National park is famous for its three-peaked mountain that juts steeply up into the sky and is always topped by cloud. This national Park has dramatic scenery and a diverse range of jungle animals and plants. At the summit of the tallest mountain is an 11th-century temple which offers expansive views of the surrounding countryside and on the forest floor are natural hot springs.

Ba Vi National Park - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Ba Vi National Park 

  1. Hanoi Opera House

This famous place is in the heart of the French Quarter and arguably one of the most elegant buildings in Hanoi. Built in 1911 and modeled after the Paris Opera House, Hanoi Opera House exudes Parisian charm from its ivory-toned columns, ornate balustrades, and Gothic domes. Visitors coming here will have a lot of chances to enjoy classical performances ranging from Vietnamese opera and music concerts by world-renowned artists and dance performances to sketches. It is at 1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi and you can easily to find it.

Hanoi Opera House - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Hanoi Opera House – Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

  1. The Temple of Literature

It is a charming and famous temple complex in the center of Hanoi which was originally built to be a center of learning dedicated to the Chinese sage and scholar Confucius. Over 1000 years of proceeding, a lot of buildings have been added and beautified and now this large area is filled with ornate pavilions,  a rich garden and shrines. The Temple of Literature has become a rite of passage for graduating doctors to visit. The whole place is also steeped in Vietnamese history. The Temple of Literature is opened from Tuesday to Sunday at 8:30 – 11:30 in the morning and 13:30 – 16:30 in the afternoon.

The Temple of Literature - Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

The Temple of Literature – Top 10 things to see in Hanoi.

Thay Pagoda

Well situated in the shadows of Sai Son MountainThay Pagoda lies in a tranquil and beautiful village, which is only around 40km west of Hanoi. The festival, officially held annually on the seventh day of the third lunar month and lasting for at least a week, pays homage to folk hero Tu Dao Hanh. The festival begins with Buddha worshipping and platform running, a religious performance accompanied by traditional music in a solemn atmosphere. Numerous traditional games are played during the festival, the best-known of all the activities is the traditional water puppet show given on Long Tri pond, in front of the Thuy Dinh Temple. After ceremonies for Buddha, you can take a hiking trip through the picturesque countryside which characterizes the region. Moreover, this is the time for you to enjoy hearing many famous legends that enrich the traditional value of this beautiful region.

Thay Pagoda Festival (3)

Thay Pagoda 

The legend behind… Thay pagoda

The festival takes place in the elaborate pagoda said to be built on the ashes of a Vietnamese folk hero and is especially famous for the performances of traditional water puppetry. It is said that Tu Dao Hanh was a Buddhist monk during the rule of the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225 A.D). Leading a religious life and dying in this very pagoda, he had outstanding merits to the religion popularization, illness treatment, and water puppetry creation. According to the legend, what makes him mysteriously sainted is that at the end of his life, the Buddhist monk sat in meditation for several months without food and drink and died in that posture. Thereafter, the people put his withered corpse in the building of the Genius for the purpose of worship.

Let’s enjoy the festival!

Several days prior to the festival, Buddhist followers and pilgrims here and there flock to the pagoda, further adding to the boisterous atmosphere of the festival. The Pagoda is cleaned with scented incenses, glistening lighted candles, bringing about a charming scene. Many cultural games and art performances are held during the festival, including Tu Dao Hanh’s statue bathing, incense sticks presenting, tablets escorting procession, Cheo (popular opera) performance, chess games, water puppet shows, a recital of the feats of Tu Dao Hanh and so on. In particular, you have a great chance to enjoy a water puppetry show portraying the tales of Thach Sanh and Tam Cam, cultural activities and features of rural life such as farm work, duck tending, and wrestling.

Thay Pagoda Festival (2)

Thay Pagoda Festival

         The Thay Pagoda festival is actually a joint festival of four villages (Thuy Khe, Da Phuc, Khanh Tan and Sai Khe). Although this area has numerous pagodas, the festival is held mainly in Thay Pagoda, which comprises three buildings: ante-chamber, Buddha’s Building and Building of the Genius. The statue bathing ritual takes place before the opening of the festival. Buddhist monks and the people participate in the ritual. Pieces of red cloth are used to clean the statues. Those who stand around solemnly hold their hands in front of their chests, whispering Buddhist sutras. When the ritual ends, the holy water the Buddha bestows will be scattered all over the pagoda to wish for bumper crops and prosperous life. The cloths are also torn into smaller pieces to grant attendants as they are thought to have the power of warding off the evils.

The two most noteworthy events and distinctive features of the festival are the procession of the tablets and the water puppet show. The procession of Tu Dao Hanh’s worshipping tablet takes place on the 7th day of the third lunar month. The local population believes that Tu Dao Hanh first learned supernatural powers and became a genius, and later on, embraced Buddhism. Therefore, at the start of the procession, his tablets must be wrapped in a piece of yellow cloth (the color of the robes worn by priests endowed with supernatural powers) and, on the return trip, the same tablets should be wrapped in the brown frock of a Buddhist monk. During the procession, Buddhist nuns take a walk recounting the feats of Tu Dao Hanh, first in learning supernatural magic and then in leading a religious Buddhist life. Noteworthy is that in the procession the tablet and white horse of Da Phuc must go ahead those of the Thuy Khue. Normally the procession comes to the pagoda at twilight. This timing is considered as propitious as it is the time when night takes over from day, when darkness and night come into contact with each other.

Thay Pagoda Festival

The Beauty of Thay Pagoda Festival

Among fascinating games in Thay Pagoda Festival, water puppetry seems to be the most outstanding. The game is the second noteworthy item, a traditional cultural activity related to wet paddy cultivation in the Red River Delta. It is performed in front of the pagoda, on a pond called Long Tri. Tu Dao Hanh is said to be the founder of this artistic performance. This item comprises two basic components: puppets and water. The puppets are products of traditional popular wood sculptures and lacquer painting. The place for the puppet performance is a lake or a part of the river. With its fluid nature and reflections, water can mirror efficiently the numerous changes in the colour of the sky, the mountains, trees and leaves and give a mythical air to the performance. The artists must usually stay inside the water and direct the movement of the puppet through sticks and strings connected. The water puppet shows reflect productive activities – paddy cultivation, duck breeding, fishing, cloth weaving, etc. The shows also draw from folk or classical theatrical plays. Apart from the water puppetry, you’ll catch firework spectaculars (mostly bangers), folk singers crooning into microphones and sporting events such as mountain-climbing and rowing.

         The Thay Pagoda festival is attractive to many visitors because of the myth surrounding Monk Tu Dao Hanh and his feats, the beautiful scenery and the water puppet shows. They fill the spectators with surprise and pleasure, who also pride in the rich imagination and dexterity of the performers who create in this art. Going to Thay Pagoda Festival is really worth, pilgrims will have an opportunity to revere the relics imbued with the imprints of outstanding monks and men of the past.

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