To visit HANOI is to steep yourself in history, tradition, and legend in a capital that has been inhabited continuously for almost a millenium. Visitors often note that the city is quieter, greener, and “cooler” than other big cities of Vietnam. Hanoi’s present architecture is mainly from the 19 th and 20 th centuries, and the French-built section of the town is largely intact. Yet, the city preserves many old religious temples and shrines dedicated to the nation’s heroes or deities, who supported the farmers to cultivate and protect the fertile land on the Red River right bank and gather the first commercial guilds to form what later became an exciting urban town
(Left: The Huc Bridge; Right: Hoan Kiem Lake)
Established as a port town in the 1920s, Nha Trang now has a population of 280,000, and serves as the capital of Khanh Hoa province. Fishing is the major industry. It is one of the nicest cities in southern Vietnam, blessed with lovely beaches, 19 beautiful surrounding islands and great ice cream! To meet the increasing number of local and foreign tourists, different kinds of hotels and guests houses have been built along the beachfront, intermingled with old French villas. It’s pleasant to cycling in Nha Trang and the surroundings, since the city has wide boulevards and little traffic. On days where it is too warm to cycle, you should take a boat out to the islands for a day of snorkeling in turquoise water and coral reefs, have a fantastic seafood banquet for lunch, and return to town just in time to wander down to the beach for a late afternoon beer of fruit shake.
Hoi An has long been a cultural crossroad. More than five centuries ago the Vietnamese nation of Dai Viet expanded its territory southwards, encroaching on the Indianized Kingdom of Champa, which covered much of what is now central Vietnam. Hoi An, located on the Hoai River, emerged when Japanese and Chinese traders built a commercial district there in the 16th century.
These diverse cultural influences remain visible today. Visitors will find Hoi An’s Old Quarter lined with two-storey Chinese shops, their elaborately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs having withstood the ravages of more than 300 years of weather and warfare. These proud old buildings, which back onto the river, remind visitors of another era, when Hoi An’s market was filled with wares from as far afield as India and Europe. Colourful guildhalls, founded by ethnic Chinese from Guangdong and Fujian provinces, stand quietly, a testament to the town’s trading roots.
While Hoi An’s old-fashioned charm is always visible, on the 14th of every lunar month modernity takes another step back. On these evenings the town turns off its street lamps and fluorescent lights, leaving the Old Quarter bathed in the warm glow of coloured silk, glass and paper lanterns. In ancient times, Vietnamese people made lamps out of shallow bowls filled with oil. Later, foreign traders introduced lanterns, ranging from round and hexagonal designs from China to diamond and star shaped ones from Japan
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