Temple of Literature
About 2km west of Hoan Kiem Lake, the Temple of Literature is a rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture. The temple complex, consisting of five courtyards, is extensive and well kept, and makes a welcome retreat from the frenetic streets of Hanoi.
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Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The outstanding Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is one of the country’s premier museums. Occupying a fine modern structure, the terrific collection features well-presented tribal art, artefacts and everyday objects gathered from across the nation. Displays are well labelled in Vietnamese, French and English. For anyone with an interest in Vietnam’s minorities, it’s an essential visit – though it is located way out in the suburbs.
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Ngoc Son Temple
Perhaps the most visited temple in Hanoi, Ngoc Son Temple sits pretty on a delightful little island in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake. An elegant scarlet bridge, known as Huc (Rising Sun) Bridge, constructed in classical Vietnamese style and lined with flags, connects the island to the lakeshore. Surrounded by water and shaded by trees, this small temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century, La To, the patron saint of physicians, and the scholar Van Xuong. Inside you’ll find some fine ceramics, a gong or two, some ancient bells and a glass case containing a stuffed lake turtle, which is said to have weighed a hefty 250kg.
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The outdoor Night Market is very different from workaday Dong
Xuan, mostly because it's more of a social event. Locals stroll the streets
shoulder-to-shoulder, perusing inexpensive goods sold at the lighted stalls. It's
fun and colourful, and definitely not about the shopping.
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Tran Quoc Pagoda
On the eastern shore of West Lake, this is one of the oldest
pagodas in Vietnam. The current structures are very impressive and date back to
1842. The pagoda is just off the road that divides West Lake and Truc Bach
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Vietnam Fine Arts Museum
This is Hanoi's best museum, and it's enormous, so set aside a
couple of hours to appreciate the works. Highlights are the extraordinary wood
carvings from the 14th century; wartime paintings (many of which are humanistic
rather than propagandistic); and the collection of ethnic costumes that surpasses
the display at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. There's also a pleasant café and a
decent gift shop.
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