Hanoi, in northern Vietnam, is a city with a history that dates back to the 7th century. In 1954 Hanoi was declared the capital of the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam, and in 1976, following the Vietnam War, it became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This political history has made Hanoi one of the country's most fascinating cities to explore. The most renowned of all the monuments is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum dedicated to Vietnam's most well-respected President, who in 1945, led his country to independence. Situated in the tranquil Ba Dinh district this is where his embalmed body lies. Ho Chi Minh's famous quotation, "Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom," and signature are etched in bright-red lettering just inside the entrance. From the mausoleum, continue to Ho Chi Minh's simple and austere former residence, which the revolutionary leader preferred over the opulent excesses of the Presidential Palace.
Also visit the peaceful courtyards of the Temple of Literature, dating from 1070 and dedicated to Confucianism. Walk through the five-walled courtyards and see the pavilion where "men of letters" once recited their poetry. Explore the downtown market and Old Quarter, visiting the Ngoc Son Pagoda and the nearby ancient "36 Streets" district. Wander through the labyrinthine maze of narrow, tree-shaded streets named for the crafts practiced by the ancient artisan guilds -- Tin Street, Silk Street, and more. The buildings here are narrow-fronted, but deceptively deep, to accommodate workshops and living quarters and to minimize taxes, which were levied according to the width of each facade.
Other highlights include the Museum of History, containing ancient artifacts from Cambodia, Thailand, Japan and China, the 11th century One Pillar Pagoda and legendary Sword Lake.
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