IN & AROUND HANOI

PMGY volunteer in Vietnam participants are based in a quiet, friendly neighbourhood approximately 45-minutes from the Old Quarter of Hanoi. There is everything you need within walking distance of the Volunteer House: ATMs, supermarkets, laundrettes, chemists, as well as some great cafes and local bars.

 

High-octane Hanoi is a feast for the senses. The first thing that hits you is the sound of swarms of buzzing motorbikes followed swiftly by the amazing wafts and tastes of incredible street food found throughout the city. Full of distinctive character as well as a confident buzz, Hanoi is now considered a pretty cool city.

 

Participants generally volunteer on a Monday-Friday basis and the weekends are free to relax or travel further afield. As our volunteers will testify, the wider travel opportunities are extremely important to the whole experience and it is something we certainly recommend you get involved in. Our local team are able to arrange activities, transportation and accommodation but please note this is usually an independent experience outside of the core programme.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex in Hanoi

HO CHI MINH MAUSOLEUM COMPLEX

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex is an important place of pilgrimage for many Vietnamese. A traffic-free area of botanical gardens, monuments, memorials and pagodas, it’s usually crowded with groups of Vietnamese who come from far and wide to pay their respects to ‘Uncle Ho’. Within the complex are Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House and the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Museum and the One Pillar Pagoda. Ho Chi Minh holds a very special place in the hearts of the Vietnamese people.

HOA LO PRISON MUSEUM

This thought-provoking site is all that remains of the former Hoa Lo Prison, ironically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US POWs during the American War. The ominous French guillotine is a gruesome relic that was used to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries. The vast prison complex was originally intended to house around 450 inmates, records indicate that by the 1930s there were close to 2000 prisoners. Hundreds escaped Hoa La’s walls over the years, many squeezing out through sewer grates.

The entrance to Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the 'Hanoi Hilton' by US POWs
A local Vietnamese vendor sells their wares in traditional style

THE OLD QUARTER

Take a step back in time into the Old Quarter of Hanoi. It will feel like a different world in comparison to the rest of the city where change takes place daily. The Old Quarter is a warren of old-style narrow, meandering streets full of antique brick houses where merchants and artisans would have gathered to sell their wares. It offers French-colonial architecture, a rich food culture and a long history. Set around Hoan Kiem Lake, a visit here will give you the chance to explore how the locals lived a hundred years ago.

Volunteer Vietnam

FURTHER AFIELD

SAPA

Sapa is orientated to make the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; overlooking a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. This is northern Vietnam’s premier trekking base from where hikers launch themselves into a surrounding countryside of cascading rice terraces and tiny hill-tribe villages that seems a world apart. It is one of the main market towns in the area, where several ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao (Yao), Giáy, Pho Lu, and Tay live. Once you’ve stepped out into the lush fields you’ll understand the Sapa area’s real charm.

The magical UNESCO World Heritage site, Halong Bay, Vietnam

HALONG BAY

Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’ and legend tells that this mystical seascape was created when a great mountain dragon charged towards the coast. As the creature plunged into the sea, the area filled with water leaving only the pinnacles visible. Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, Halong Bay’s spectacular scatter of islands (1,969 in total), is unsurprisingly, Vietnam’s number one tourism hub.

HOI AN

Just over an hour’s inexpensive flight away lies graceful, historic Hoi An. Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and riverside setting that befits its heritage, but the 21st-century curses of traffic and pollution are almost entirely absent. Hoi An owes its easy-going provincial demeanour and remarkably harmonious old-town character more to luck than planning. Had the Thu Bon River not silted up in the late 19th century – so ships could no longer access the town’s docks – Hoi An would doubtless be very different today.

The grand architecture of Hoi An relfected in the water at night
 

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