Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is as rich and complex a modern city as the history of the country. A visitor to the city will find a broad mix of the old and the new, all of it colored by the traumatic history of the Vietnam War. Vietnam means “South Viet” and although the North and South portions of the country were united under the communist party in the late 70s, the country still retains the distinctive cultures of the two halves. In Hanoi, visitors will find a little of the old and new as well as the North and South.
Vietnam was originally a part of China before AD 938. After it broke from China, it existed as its own country until the mid-1800s when it was colonized by France. It then became the center of the area known as Indochina. The French influence in the country and Hanoi, its capital, can still be seen today. For almost a hundred years Vietnam was under French control. In the late 1940s, the first Indochina war occurred that split the country into North and South regions.
The North was controlled by the Viet Minh, a communist party, and the south remained in the hands of an international contingent. While most people consider the Vietnam War to have occurred only between the USA and North Vietnam, it actually involved many countries. In the end, the North Vietnamese triumphed and reunited the country. Over the past few decades there have been a number of reforms instituted in the city of Hanoi and the entire country to relax the former restrictions placed on the economy and tourism and to recharge the country as a participant on the global stage.
While many tourists come to Hanoi to be able to take in the local culture without sacrificing modern conveniences, there is an entire class of business tourist that flocks to the country. Surprisingly, Vietnam has begun to excel in the industry of robotics and space technology. There are plans to build a USA funded space launch and program by the late 2020s.
This is not what most people expect from a country that is only so recently out of war-time difficulties and also has a high rate of poverty. Hanoi is not the largest city in Vietnam, a distinction reserved for Ho Chi Minh city, but as the capital, it is the city with the most funding and international activity. Side by side with the robotics and space industries tourist will be able to explore the old quarter and see both the evidence of French colonization and the rich local culture that has survived every twist in political control the country has experienced.
The streets of Hanoi, in the old or new section, make a little bit of the world available to everyone. Whatever your tastes may be, you will find something to please you. The best part about modern Hanoi is the ease with which it holds its past, supports its present and strives for the future.