3. Hanoi: Full-Day City Tour with Lunch and Optional Extras
Start the day in the early morning from the convenient meeting point or with a pickup from your hotel in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Meet your guide and driver and depart for Buddhist Tran Quoc Pagoda at West Lake, one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam. It located on an east side islet of the West Lake (Tay Ho district). It is considered as the most ancient pagoda in Thang Long - Ha Noi with its historical progression in 1500 years. It has a harmonious combination between the majesty, hoariness architecture and peaceful landscape of the West Lake. From the period in the Ly and Tran dynasties, it had become the Buddhist center of Thang Long.
Next up, visiting to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, consisting of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House, and Ba Dinh Square. See the final resting place of Uncle Ho and the One Pillar Pagoda, an important symbol for the people of Hanoi.
Proceed to Ethnology Museum offers an insight into the 54 different ethnic groups of Vietnam in an effort to preserve cultural heritage and promote sociology-cultural diversity within the country. The museum is packed full of information detailing traditional Vietnamese ways of life, from religious events to the symbolic rituals of all the Vietnamese ethnic groups, providing a rich tapestry of the culture melting pot existing in Vietnam.(Ethnology Museum will close on Monday so we will change to visit Women Museum instead.)
Afterwards, return to the Old Town and savor a delicious lunch at a local restaurant. Subsequently, keep going the journey with Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam — the Temple of Literature — and Vietnam’s first university, constructed in 1070 with its gardens and well-preserved architecture offering a relaxing glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
Next stop, coming to Hoa Lo Prison, which was built by the French, from 1886 to 1901, when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina. The French called the prison Maison Centrale. It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, particularly political prisoners. It had become a symbol of colonialist exploitation and of the bitterness of the Vietnamese towards the French. The prison was called “A Hell on Earth” and now the prison is like a war museum for those who want to understand more about the war against France of Vietnamese people.
If you would prefer to further explore the city, there is an optional cyclo tour taking in around 36 streets during a 45-minute ride on a traditional Vietnamese rickshaw known locally as a xích lô. This was the most popular means of transportation in Vietnam during the French colonial period and was used as luxury transportation for the French and a small number of Vietnamese people at that time. Nowadays, the cyclo has become a special experience for tourists who want to learn more about the period of French occupation in Vietnam.