Hanoi, on the banks of the Red River (Song Hong), provides a complete contrast to bustling Ho Chi Min City. The capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is more like a quiet charming provincial town with its shady boulevards and pleasant public parks. Wander around the centre and you’ll see fine old buildings. The cafes, graceful lakes and ancient pagodas ... More>help generate a slower pace than that of thriving Saigon. For an insight into Vietnam, visit the History Museum which charts the evolution of the country, from pre-historic days to the rise of the Communist Party. Around 120 kilometres south-west of Hanoi lies the Cuc Phuong National Park - one of the last tropical primeval forest reserves on Earth which contains rare plants and animals, many of which are extinct everywhere else in the world. The most visited sites in Hanoi include Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, the one pillar pagoda, and the temple of literature. Our favourite hotels in Hanoi are the local guesthouses, where you will be welcomed like a returning member of the family, well-fed and remembered by name when you get back each evening. Because it is Vietnam’s capital transportation is not an issue. The international airport is only 30 minutes away by taxi, and there are plenty of cabs and motorbikes to hop on if you want to make a journey that isn’t possible on foot.