Early morning mist rises from the Hoan Kiem Lake while elders perform the slow movements of tai chi in green parks, streets become filled with mopeds and cyclo drivers (three-wheeled bicycle taxis) clamour for people attention.
Although a city of historical importance considered to be the social and cultural centre of Vietnam, Hanoi is a far slower and less developed than Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, this slow pace development has preserved the special vibe you will live in Hanoi, with old fascinating buildings, green views on treed boulevards and smiling local people. Especially the historic Old Quarter with its French style streets and arts and crafts bargains.
Especially in this area there are many recently refurbished hotels that kept an eye to the traditional architecture and design. Modest but with an unique charming environment some Hanoi Hotels are located in historical or colonial buildings. Just to mention some that you can easily find and book directly online are the Pearls hotel for example, the Old street Hotel, Hanoi Queen Plaza, the Ritz Hotel, Joy Hotel, Return Hotel, Y Van Riverside Hotel or Hanoi Plaza hotel. Most of them face the quiet Hoan Kiem lake providing guests with beautiful views from terraces and windows. Quite unexpectedly for the standard they offer, the room rates in Hanoi Vietnamese Hotels are modest in general, ranging from 3,5 euros per person up to 15 euros per person.
As a cultural centre, Hanoi has quite a lot to offer. In fact, during the year Hanoi guests many traditional events from water puppet shows, to music and religious festivals, dance performances and a lot more. Just to mention a couple of curious ones held in springtime, that will certainly worth a visit to Vietnam and Hanoi in particular, are the Whale Festival and the Elephant Race, both in March.
The former is a fishermen festival typical of Quang Nam Village in Da Nang province, where people worship Whales and their gods asking for prosperity; the latter is more traditional in the countryside in Don Village or in forests near the Sevepoi River (Dac Lak). The race track is large enough for 10 elephants running on even ground near the forest for 1-2 km. At the signal, the mahouts command their elephants to go to the starting line and will start running excited by the sound of the drums, gongs, and cheering from the viewers.
At the end of the race, the winning one wave to the viewers with its trunk and is offered sugarcane and banana leafs!