Ba Dinh Square is a vast open space. On one side is Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, which is not always open. I didn't have an interest for embalmed dead bodies anyway, so headed towards something more interesting a block away.
Originally built for the French governor, Ho Chi Minh's Residence is a large manicured compound exhibiting many artifacts over several buildings. As expected, the leader travelled in style using state-of-the-art vehicles of the time.
The residence itself stands on stilts, with the ground floor being a meeting place for the political elite and the upstairs being the bedroom and study.
The original One-Pillar Pagoda was built in 1049. This one is a reproduction, along with a concrete pillar to make it look even less historic. People supposedly come here to pray for fertility.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum has plenty of artifacts dedicated to the Communist revolution.
Quan Thanh Temple was established in the Ly Dynasty (11-13th centuries) and worships the tortoise and the snake, both symbols of power.
Nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton, Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French in 1896 for political prisoners. It became a POW jail during the Vietnam War. The facility was been beautified somewhat but the cells and punishment tools on display still look quite scary.
The city centre is not densely-packed with highrises.
The Opera House looks beautiful on the outside, although the interiors are off-limits unless you have booked a performance. Looking at this building, you would not think you are in Vietnam.