A floating fishing village and rock islands in Ha Long Bay, near Hanoi, Vietnam
Halong Bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, but you'll feel the imprint of the millions of years it took to form as you swerve in and out of its limestone cliffs by boat. Pose for selfies with friendly locals into the streets of Ha Long City or Cat Ba Island, or hike up to Pho Tsi Mountain for a panorama you can enjoy from dry land.
The garden and entrance gate to the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnam's capital Hanoi celebrated its 1,000th birthday in 2010, and even a short time in the city allows you to see a cross section of its impressive history. The Temple of Literature hosts Vietnam's first university, while Hoa La Prison tells the moving stories of the Vietnam War. The red hue of Huc Bridge, which crosses Hoan Kiem Lake, is timeless and iconic, while the ultra-modern Hanoi Museum, fashioned as an inverted pyramid, embodies the boldness with which Vietnam has entered the 21st century.
Vietnam was under French authority for 60 years during the late 19th century, and vestiges of European culture remain in the city. From architectural wonders like the Gothic Revival St. Joseph's Cathedral, to the Buttercup Yellow Presidential Palace — a turn-of-the-20th-century building that once housed the Governor-General of French Indochina — Hanoi is both proudly Vietnamese and delightfully global.
It's no secret that Vietnam has legendary food, such as its pho noodle soup that's become popular around the world. While most people know pho as a beef soup (Pho bo), Hanoi specializes in the chicken variety known as Pho ga. Other popular northern Vietnamese dishes include Bun cha (fatty grilled pork with soft vermicelli noodles) and the simple fried fish on offer at legendary Hanoi eatery La Vong.
Shopping in old Hanoi is unique because the Old Quarter of the city has several streets dedicated to individual products. Hang Bac Street specializes in silver jewelry, while Hang Gai Street sells Vietnamese silks and paintings. Hang Hanh is where you'll head if you want to buy — or drink — legendary Vietnamese coffee during your cruise vacation. This coffee is best enjoyed as ca phe sua da — iced with sweetened condensed milk.
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