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Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi effortlessly blends new Asia's dynamic face with the exotic vibe of old Asia. The modern and the medieval co-exist beautifully on the streets of the Vietnamese capital. In the Old Quarter, sellers set up shop on the tangled web of streets like they have for nearly a century, locals in conical hats whiz by on bicycles, grey-bearded men challenge each other to games of chess on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake and the city's bold and beautiful feast at posh restaurants before dancing to the latest hits at packed nightclubs. Hanoi is where the paradox of modern Vietnam comes alive, and the capital has it all: ancient history, the legacy of a colonial past and a modern outlook that remains optimistic about the future.

The brightest gem of Hanoi is its most historic and culturally important pagoda, Tran Quoc. The resplendent pagoda was built in the mid-6th century under King Ly Nam De and is considered the most important Buddhist temple in the country. Its intricate design includes ten shrines, an impressive belfry and many valuable gold-trimmed statues representing the Buddha. The West Lake provides a tranquil backdrop to the pagoda and is especially beautiful at sunset.

For a glimpse into Vietnamese culture, visit the National Museum of Fine Arts. Housed in a classical building with touches of Asian details, the collection spans two wings and includes everything from ancient antiquities to contemporary art. One of the best exhibits details the evolution of lacquer, told through sculptures of the Buddha, Hindu goddesses and the kings and queens of Vietnam.

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