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Ha Noi is a magical sight, but the traffic chaos is not

Update: October, 10/2014 - 09:35

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers for their thoughts about Ha Noi as the capital celebrates the 60th anniversary of its Liberation Day on October 10, 1954.

Recently, users of the global travel website TripAdvisor ranked Ha Noi second in the top 25 destinations in Asia. This puts it above major cities like Shanghai, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Here are some responses:

Peter Borchers, Canadian, Canada

I have been coming to Ha Noi since 1994. I immediately fell in love with the people of this wonderful city. I love the Old Quarter although walking on the streets is not the most pleasant. I love the coffee and the low-sitting seats of street vendors selling the most delicious soups. My favorite is Hoan Kiem Lake. It allows one to take such a peaceful walk.

In the early mornings, I also enjoy watching old people doing their Tai Chi exercises. My 15th visit was in March of this year and I am looking forward to my next visit. I adore the 1004-year-old city. The high placing above other popular cities is well deserved. Congratulations.

John Grist, British, Ha Noi

I moved to Ha Noi at the end of 2013 as I believe there are commercial opportunities and growing demand for global experience. This is coupled with a relatively low cost of living.

I can best describe the old charm of Ha Noi as a bygone, but rich culture. There is a significant, some may say scarred history, quaintly coming to grips with modern times.

The maintenance of this culture and the feeling of really being in the Orient is an important characteristic of Ha Noi and the primary contributor to why, having lived in Singapore and Dubai, that I certainly rank Ha Noi above these two modern shopping centres.

There is history in Ha Noi with the preservation of many temples and pagodas, but lacking the ancient history and buildings in Siam Reap, Yogyakarta, Xian and even Beijing. Nonetheless, I would not wish to see Ha Noi change too much with the exception of the traffic chaos.

I would also hope for the return of trams as a safe and environmentally friendly mode of transport. What Ha Noi does offer much more widely than the four historic cities I have mentioned is a friendly culture and a rich selection of national food as well as excellent Western restaurants.

After living in Ha Noi for 10 months, I am still pleasantly surprised as a new magical sight or experience is unveiled every day. This can be the splendid architecture amongst the lanes around Tay Ho, ceremonial dress or the street life and markets. There is also the beauty of the passing seasons.

As a destination though, assuming a limited period of time seven to 10 days, it would be easy to be overwhelmed by the labyrinth of streets in the Old Quarter.

This is how many tourist guide books present the capital. I can understand how some people can leave unfulfilled, believing Ha Noi to be one dimensional and a tourist trap with differential priced for locals and foreigners.

Despite these comments, I love Ha Noi and have chosen to make it my home. However, I prefer to explore the city with those who know their way around the city and are not bound by guide books.

Kristy Nicol, British, Ha Noi

What I love and what you can't see in any other Asian city that I have been to, is the evidence of Ha Noi's past and its culture – the pagodas, the style and the art in them. And there are so many!

Most cities have been so modernised that they have obliterated their heritage. To me, Ha Noi is the oriental jewel of the East. The wearing of traditional clothes is respected and the customs are followed.

As a child, I felt there was still a city in the East that had preserved its exotic, ancient charm, but I always thought that it was Hong Kong. What a wonderful surprise when I arrived to find it was Ha Noi.

Being so close to the stunning and timeless beauty of the surrounding provinces makes me feel blessed to be here. So please don't tear down any of your historical buildings, take care of your traffic system, encourage bicycles and public buses and preserve areas where Hanoians live and work in the open, for the world to admire.

Thank you Ha Noi for being a welcoming host and don't change too much.

Catherine Wang, American, New York City

I visited the city for only three days and I absolutely would want to return for another treat. The food here is so cheap and the quality is absolutely at the top level. I must say the Vietnamese food I have in New York City cannot match the quality here.

I came here after visiting several cities in China and I must say I love the small streets so much. In Ha Noi, I can finally find some peace, even with the crazy motorbikes. I even think the motorbikes are cool. However, it's probably because I don't live here so I don't have to deal with the traffic on a normal basis.

One of the possible downturns is the traffic. Cities like Bangkok or Singapore obviously are much easier to navigate because of their subways and overhead rail lines. But one thing I do not like is being charged more for goods. Without my local friend, I would have been ripped off. It does not just happen in Ha Noi but ripping off tourists certainly cannot be a plus point. — VNS

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