Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of tree-lined avenues, maze like back streets with lively merchants stores, temples and lakes and has many fine colonial buildings.
A village existed here at least as early as the 3rd century. century AD, and a defensive citadel was established in the 8. The official origins of this great capital city go back to the year 1010. According to legend, while the new king, Ly Thai To, was in his royal barge on the river, he saw a golden dragon flew up towards the heavens. This was a good omen, so he moved his court from Hoa Lu to here, renaming his new capital city, Thang Long, “City of the Rising Dragon”. The heart of Thang Long Citadel was the king’s sanctuary in the ‘Forbidden City’, but a growing collection of villages of commoners grew up around the walls.
More name changes over the centuries, and in 1802, the Nguyen dynasty moved their capital from here to the central city of Hue. In 1831, Emperor Tu Duc changed the name of the former royal capital to ‘Ha Noi’ - “City in a bend of the River”. While Ha Noi was no longer home to royalty, it was destined to soon become an important political centre again. The French colonialists occupied Hanoi in 1883, and it became their main administrative centre for all of French Indo-china (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos). Hanoi became the capital of their new colony of Tonkin (northern Viet Nam). Cochin-china (the southern 1/3rd of Viet Nam) had become a French colony in 1862. The Nguyen dynasty continued to rule from Hue, nominally at least, until 1945, but the French ‘pulled the strings’, dethroning any patriotic kings who opposed them.