Despite the title of Vietnam’s administration capital, Hanoi is not as popular for teaching English in Vietnam as its counterpart Ho Chi Minh. Unlike Ho Chi Minh which has a more international vibe, Hanoi exudes an intimate tranquillity and has a more urban outlook. Some argue that Hanoi may actually be the most beautiful city in Asia. Some of this beauty can be found at Hoan Kiem Lake (one of 12 lakes in Hanoi) which is the unofficial centre of Hanoi.

Hanoi Is located in Vietnam’s northern region, in the Red River delta and is a mere 90km away from the Coastal Area. As Vietnam’s largest city, Hanoi has a population of over six million. The noise from which consumes you in a constant buzz. Getting about in Hanoi can be an adventure in itself, with the city’s inhabitants playing out their daily lives on the streets, from selling wares to chopping vegetables, from overloaded scooters to women shouldering bamboo canes and even makeshift badminton games taking place!

North of Hoan Kiem Lake is the city’s busiest area and all the economical hotels, tourist shops and cafes aimed towards visitors are located here. The area is known as the Old Quarter and is a myriad of narrow windy lanes, each named after a commodity that can be bought there including copper, medicine and jewellery. The city has yet to lose its distinctive charm even in the face of modernisation. Money is more visible now in Hanoi than before with the city’s wealthy increasingly spending money in sophisticated restaurants and designer boutiques. Visitors for teaching English in Vietnam here will no doubt be able to take advantage of a few bargains.

Best options for food in Hanoi are the food stalls or street kitchens. Both represent great value for money and often have just one or two things on the menu. If you are looking to try something a little unusual there are places where you can ask for goat, dog or rat dishes.  French culinary delights can also be enjoyed across Hanoi.

Most popular traditional entertainment in Hanoi consists of a performance of the Water Puppets. The water puppets re-enact scenes detailing rural life or historic events with musical narration in the background. For something a little less light hearted Hanoi offers a performance of ca tru music. Their brand of entertainment is haunting and performed to invoke feeling and emotion. Acts specialising in ca tru music include only three musicians, of whom one is usually a female singer.

Hanoi is situated in a tropical monsoon zone.During the dry season, (October to April), it is cold and there is very little rainfall. The wet season (May to September) is hot with heavy rains and storms. The average annual temperature is 23.20C.

History

In 1010 King Ly Thai To discovered the citadel that the Chinese had been forced to abandon. The King is often cited in history material as Hanoi’s founding father. He set about expanding what was then called Thang Long, building temples, establishing a route for merchants and even set up the nation’s first University. The capital was once again seized by the Chinese in 1407 until 1428 when this time their saviour was Le Loi. Under his rule Thang Long flourished with lakes and marshes drained to accommodate a growing civilian population. After the death of King Le Thanh in 1497, one of the Le Dynasty kings, the country once again deteriorated into a state of anarchy. The situation prevailed till Emperor Gia Long decided to move his royal court to Hue in 1802.

French forces took advantage of Thang Long’s lack of defence and attacked the provincial capital in 1882. Thereafter, in 1887 Hanoi became the centre of government for the Union of Indochina. Slowly the city was transformed to reflect its colonial powers with palaces and monuments stripped and replaced with tree-lined boulevards, offices and big homes. Amidst this European takeover, the city’s inhabitants lived a separate and often poor existence.

The August Revolution of 1945 revealed the city’s nationalism with the Vietnamese people taking to the streets to vent, however its wasn’t until 1954 when the city finally became the capital of an independent Vietnam.

The American War bought more destruction for Hanoi especially during the 1972 Christmas bombing campaign. In the aftermath, Hanoi was reduced to a shadow of itself, cut off from political partners and lacking the rebuild itself. To this day the city still harbours signs to this tumultuous period even as it seeks to rebuild itself into a modern capital.

Things to see and do when teaching English in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
Ba Dinh Square
Ho Chi Minh museum
Van Mieu (Temple of Literature)
Ngoc Son Temple
Perfume Pagoda
Co Loa (Citadel)

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