On the right bank of the Red River in Vietnam's north lies a city of many greats; great history, great energy, great flavours, great sights, great contrasts. A great capital.

The word ‘great' comes easily to Hanoi. And it's little wonder why. Encompassing the exotic delights of the East and the modern comforts of the West, Hanoi is where the icons of Vietnam culminate. Vivid street scenes of hawkers in conical hats dodging motorbikes as they cycle down streets with baskets of fruit, while nearby, street stalls permeate with exotic fragrances on the footpath, serving up plates of crispy pork crepes quicker than you can pronounce the Vietnamese word for them (banh xeo). Across the street, market hawkers are ready for a barter battle — always with a smile, of course.

As Vietnam's second largest city and its capital, Hanoi has its fair share of bustle (although it's known to be much more relaxed than Ho Chi Minh City). Urban adventures are best experienced by simply wandering the Old Quarter. Or, if you're really brave, on the back of a motorbike where the road rules are there ain't no rules.

For all its full-throttle action though, Hanoi also has a stoic side. You'll find it while walking across the red Huc Bridge over the serene Hoan Kiem Lake or simply by sitting down to a cup of lotus tea in a quaint alley cafe. Contemplative and confounding - a great capital.


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