After breakfast at 08:00am, your guide will meet you for a cultural tour of Hanoi’s highlights. You start the tour at the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, an imposing monument lavishly built using marble and granite, and where the preserved body of “Uncle Ho” resides (Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed every Monday & Friday, all afternoons and from late September until December). Behind the Mausoleum, you can see Ho Chi Minh’s House. The simple house where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked is made of wood and enjoyed a tranquil setting, with a view of a lotus pond. Ho Chi Minh’s belongings are on display and you can walk up the steps of his house to see his bedroom. A short walk from the mausoleum is the lotus shaped One Pillar Pagoda – resting on a single stone pillar emerging from the water.
Continue to visit the hallowed “Temple of Literature”- Van Mieu as it is known in Viet Namese – the country’s most renowned temple complex. A Confucian sanctuary and academy, the centre once housed the country’s first university, founded in 1076. Take time to wander through the stone tablets and soak up a thousand years of learning with your local guide.
Enjoy lunch at the Wild Rice Restaurant, one of Vietnam’s finest establishments, offering a range of traditional cuisine rich in flavor and colors within an innovative modern dining setting.
In the afternoon, drive to visit the serene Museum of Ethnology, a 20 minute drive out of town, which offers fascinating insight into Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups. (Museum of Ethnology is closed on Mondays).
Drive back to central Hanoi for an hour cyclo ride through the Old Quarter to enjoy the bustling local life. You will cyclo along tree-lined avenues to the narrow warren of streets in the Old Quarter, where you can buy anything from a gravestone to silk pajamas. The maze of back streets is fascinating, and the area is known for its “tunnel” or “tube houses”. They were developed to avoid taxes based on the width of their frontage onto the street, so their small frontages hide very long rooms. A cyclo tour of the Old Quarter provides you with a glimpse of contemporary Vietnamese culture and a sense of the country’s complex history at the same time.
The cyclo will drop you off at one of Hanoi’s renowned Bia Hoi, where they serve fresh draft beer and tasty snacks. These “pubs” are traditional favorite social gathering spots as well as watering holes during the afternoons and evenings throughout Hanoi. Here you will sit at low-slung, plastic tables on small stools and rub elbows with the locals, drink some beers, have snacks and talk about your day.
An optional end to your day is with a show at the water puppet theatre – a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes of rural life and episodes of national history.
Drive back to your hotel for relaxation.