Photo: Masks at Hanoi Market
Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, lies on the banks of the Red River, some 100 kilometres from its mouth. Human settlements at the place date back as far as the 3rd century B.C.
In 1010 Hanoi, at that time known by the name of Thang Long, became capital of the first Vietnamese dynasty independent from the Chinese. The city received its present name, Hanoi, only in 1831. However, at that time not Hanoi but Hué was the capital of the Vietnamese empire.
In 1882 Hanoi was conquered by a French expedition. In 1883 France forced the then uncolonialized North of the Vietnamese empire to accept the status of a French protectorate. The French administratively divided the country into the colony Cochin China (in the South) and the protectorates Annam (central Vietnam) and Tonkin (North Vietnam). Hanoi became the capital of the protectorate Tonkin.
Vast parts of present-day Hanoi were built during the French colonial occupation. With its broad boulevards and a French-inspired architecture the city has a noticeable structural charm.
The French abandoned Hanoi after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu and the division of Vietnam into two separate states according to the Geneva Treaty signed on July 20, 1954. Ho Chi Minh made Hanoi the capital of North Vietnam and initially concentrated on the expansion of the city's industry.
During the US bombardments of North Vietnam from March 1965 to October 1968 the authorities evacuated 75 % of Hanoi's population. After the end of the bombardments the city again grew rapidly. Today the population of Hanoi counts more than 3 million.
Nevertheless, the city does not seem as crowded as Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon. And even though Hanoi is the political capital of the country, Ho Chi Minh City definitely is ahead economically.
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