Hanoi`s beguiling boulevards, the Belle Époque architecture and peaceful parks and pagodas are enough to recommend it. But there is also the bonus of a vibrant, optimistic population and fantastic food. Here traffic likely overwhelms the newcomers and it is good to know that two wheels are better than four: motorbikes, bicycles and cyclos beat the cars and buses every day.It is not surprising that after a history of French colonisation, American War and Communist rule, the local people tend to be suspicious both of authority and outsiders, but they are also very hospitable, incredibly adaptive to change and positive about the future.
Indeed, Hanoi residents are known for their reserve and strength of character, coupled with diligence and resourcefulness. Having your shoes shined or getting a quick haircut on the street at 5 am, watching merchants setting up their stalls, then off to the flower market to buy blossoms, padded bras and some plastic baskets, followed by Pho for breakfast with ground pork and mushrooms just at one of the countless lanes of the Old Quarter, combining hundreds of years of history with intriguing shopping and insight into Hanoi`s heart – this is the defining experience of Vietnam`s capital city.