A relaxed city of lakes, parks, tree lined avenues, villas and mansions and the infamous Old French Quarter, Hanoi is quite simply one of the most interesting and atmospheric large cities in Asia! The city has been influential in the region from as far back as circa 1010 and some of the cities fabulous attractions such as The One Pillar Pagoda and the spectacular Temple of Literature (one of the regions first Universities) are a must see. The eerie Mausoleum of “Uncle Ho”, where Ho Chi Minh lies in state in a glass coffin and the many art galleries and museums are also on most tourist itineraries. Hoan Kiem Lake is the focal point of the city and a great way to get your bearings in Hanoi is to make a quick circuit of the lake, a pleasant 30 minute walk, which is stunning in June and July when the flame trees flower. Hanoi is the only major city to retain its ancient merchants' quarter, a congested square kilometre where the streets are named after what is sold on them including Gold Street, Sugar Street and even Fried Fish Street. These 36 streets were closed behind massive ramparts and heavy wooden gates until well into the 19th-century. The best approach is just to lose yourself and explore the colourful stalls and street vendors.