5 free things: Hanoi is full of life and charm
Vietnam remains very cheap by Western standards, so it's possible to grab a big steaming bowl of pho _ a brothy, aromatic beef or chicken noodle soup that serves as the country's staple dish _ off a sidewalk cauldron for the price of a cup of coffee.
Still, in a city dotted with sleepy lakes and Buddhist temples where much of life is lived on the street, some of the best experiences truly are free. Here's five picks:
STROLL AROUND HOAN KIEM LAKE
The lake is the centerpiece of central Hanoi. Its shady banks are a meeting place for young teenagers chatting on mobile phones alongside aging war veterans playing chess. Early in the morning, the lake comes alive with crowds of Vietnamese doing an array of exercises, ranging from serene tai chi to booming aerobics. Take a walk around the water and look for the famous turtle that many Vietnamese believe is sacred. If you spot it surface, make a wish because it's considered good luck!
HO CHI MINH MAUSOLEUM
The embalmed body of Uncle Ho, as Vietnamese affectionately call their late founding president Ho Chi Minh, can be viewed inside an enormous granite mausoleum. For many Vietnamese, the trip to Hanoi to see the famous revolutionary who liberated
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