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Top Rated Attractions in Rest of Vietnam

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Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

A short taxi or motorbike ride outside of Hanoi's center brings you to the Museum of Ethnology. The French-designed building and surrounding grounds, which simulate life in the provinces, warrant the trip even before you step inside. The museum displays a dizzying array of artifacts from all over Vietnam. Brief descriptions in French, English and Vietnamese of tools, clothing and recreated homes provide a sketch of several Vietnamese ethnic minorities. A craft shop sells books, bags and other items from various ethnic communities at reasonable prices.

Hoan Kiem Lake

This small lake between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter is central to Hanoian folklore. A ghostly shrine (the Turtle Pagoda) standing on an islet at its center pays homage to a golden turtle. In the 15th century, this heroic reptile is said to have returned a magic sword to its home in the lake after it had been taken. These days, the sculptured park along the banks plays host to postcard sellers, hawkers, elder men playing chess, llone photographers looking for a snap among others.

Temple of Literature

In 1070, King Ly Thanh Tong founded the Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) as a Temple of Confucius, to pay tribute to education and to those of high academic achievement. Centuries later, it became home to Hanoi's first university. Even now, more than 200 years after the last national examination, the site's five courtyards still enjoy an atmosphere of higher learning. Today, art students sit on the grass and try to reproduce the traditional Vietnamese architecture on paper. Stone stelae record the names of successful doctorates of the past at this quiet retreat, into Vietnamese educational history. Touted to be one of the most revered places in the country, this erstwhile university has a certain kind of a palatial aura attached to it. It is as if the ancient regal allure yet lingers over its present-day courtyards, the majestic main entrance, pavilions and verdant trees arching over winding walkways. Complete with beautifully-carved sculptures and traditional artifacts, this temple also bears attractions like the Văn lake and the Well of Heavenly Clarity.

Hanoi Opera House

There is nothing more striking in Hanoi than looking down Trang Tien Street and seeing the Hanoi Opera House standing strong at the end. Built by the French in 1911, and renovated in the late 1990s, this is an incredible building. The facade is colonial French with pillars and balconies overlooking the city center. The opera house plays host to visiting foreign performances as well as Vietnamese symphonies.

President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The resting place of the remarkable revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, this monumental mausoleum stands at the same place where the then-President read the Declaration of Independence. The glorious centerpiece of Ba Dinh Square, the mausoleum boasts an architecture which is a skillful melange of both modernist as well as traditional Vietnamese styles. Inside, the mortal remains of the great politician are placed in a glass case amidst much protection. One of the most precious landmarks of Hanoi, this mausoleum proffers a somber experience, lending deep insights into the legacy the man has left behind, setting a striking example, not just for the country, but for the entire world. Cradled in the spiritual center of Vietnamese Independence, the mausoleum features a quiet line that forms to view 'Uncle Ho's' body, which is a vision of sheer respect and dignity. Sitting in front of Ho's stilt house, this moving mausoleum is one of the priceless possessions of the city.

St. Joseph's Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral, which anchors one of Hanoi's most touristy streets, offers a glimpse into a bygone era. Speckles of light still dance through stained glass work, leaving a kaleidoscope of color on the towers, which stretch toward the sky. Its doors first swung open in 1886, during the earliest days of colonial rule, and the cathedral still holds mass twice daily. During other hours, visitors can enter through a door on the side of the cathedral.

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