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Teaching English in Vietnam: 10 Highlights of Historic Hanoi
Written by: International TEFL Academy
Last Updated: January 15, 2021
Do you want to live and teach English abroad in a historic city in the heart of Asia known for its colorful street markets, ancient temples, and French colonial charm?
You might just need to consider teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam! Capital of Vietnam and home to 6.5 million people, the ancient city of Hanoi has been a center of civilization and Vietnamese culture for more than 2,000 years. Despite repeated wars and invasions - from the Chinese and Japanese to the French and Americans - and a 1,000 year Chinese occupation, the people of Hanoi have always steadfastly maintained their national identity and culture. From 1954 to 1976, during the Cold War and the Vietnam War, Hanoi was a city on a war footing and for decades was one of the most isolated and austere cities in the world. Forty years after the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam, and 25 years after the Socialist regime implemented the reforms of doi moi liberalizing the country's economy and opening it to trade, investment and travel; Hanoi has reintroduced itself to the world as a vibrant center of history, trade, culture and education.
Hanoi - The Renaissance of a City
During the past 20 years, only China has enjoyed a higher consistent rate of economic growth than Vietnam, which has experienced a massive surge in international investment, trade and tourism since economic reforms were implemented in the early 1990s. Since then, Hanoi has experienced significant development with skyscrapers, cinemas, restaurants, coffee shops, karaoke, shopping malls, bars and clubs popping up everywhere. The city also offers a striking number of cultural attractions from water puppet shows to opera, and many fantastic art exhibits and boutiques!
Vietnam - A Great Job Market for Teaching English Abroad
With a massive explosion of international trade, investment and tourism, the need for English language teachers in Vietnam, a nation of nearly 90 million people, has surged, making it one of the top job markets for teaching English abroad, not only in Asia, but across the globe. In fact demand for English teachers is so high that schools and language institutes are hiring year around. In addition, due to a low cost of living - most teachers live in fully furnished apartments for the equivalent of $300 a month or less - most English teachers can save up to the equivalent of $600 a month or even more, all while enjoying all that Hanoi and Vietnam have to offer.
Here are just a few of the highlights you have to look forward to while teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam:
1. The Timeless Beauty of the Tran Quoc Pagoda
Erected on the shores of the Red River nearly 1,500 years ago, the Tran Quoc Pagoda stands as one of the most important symbols of Vietnam's ancient Buddhist heritage. Its serene setting and fantastic sunset views provide a perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hanoi.
2. Hoan Kiem Lake
The Lake of “The Restored Sword” is set in the historical center of Hanoi and derives its name from an ancient legend that recalls how Emperor Le Loi was approached by the Golden Turtle God who requested that he return a magical sword that had been lent to Emperor Le Loi by another deity and was used to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam. In the center of the lake stands the small 18th century Jade Temple that commemorates another defeat of Chinese invaders has become one of the primary symbols of Hanoi. (Defeating Chinese invaders is a major theme throughout Vietnamese history and legend!)
Today, the Hoan Kiem Lake is a favorite spot for locals to enjoy warm summer evenings, exercise and also for couples to take their wedding pictures.
3. Grand Opera House
The legacy of the French colonial age in Vietnam (1880s - 1954) can be seen throughout much of Hanoi, but perhaps no landmark embodies it more than the Grand Opera House. One of the most exquisite pieces of the colonial architecture of Vietnam, it was built as a replica of the legendary Palais Garnier in Paris, and has been a focal point of the city's cultural life since its construction between 1901 and 1911.
4. Old Quarter: Markets of the 36 Streets
Prior to the 20th century, life in centered around the legendary "36 streets," which are now known as the Old Quarter. Back in the day, each street was known for hosting a particular trade; like jewelry, silk, food, etc, and each street is named based on the particular type of commerce that it was associated with. Today this district remains the heart and soul of the city and continues to serve as a focal point of local commerce that is home to hundreds of artisans and small shops. It's a great place to buy household goods as well as souvenirs, and is also home to a plethora of traditional restaurant and bars, where you can sample all sorts of local specialties.
5. Temple of Literature
Built to honor Confucius, this monumental temple served as one of Vietnam's preeminent centers of learning, spirituality and imperial life for nearly 1,000 years. A prime example of the Chinese influence on Vietnamese history and culture, the temple is considered the first university in the country and incorporates a variety of architectural styles as well as elegant gardens and lakes. Despite suffering damage during many invasions and wars, the temple has been restored and rebuilt numerous times, most recently in 1920, 1954 and in 2000.
6. Ho Chi Minh's House & the One-Pillar Pagoda
Known as Bac Ho ("Uncle Ho") to the Vietnamese people, Ho Chi Minh was one of the most remarkable international figures of the 20th century. Public enemy #1 to many Americans during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s, Ho Chi Minh was revered across much of the world as a freedom fighter who lead the Vietnamese resistance for 30 years not only against the Americans, but also the French and Japanese. A fascinating man who lived and traveled across the world prior to emerging as a major international figure, Uncle Ho lived modestly in this stilted house, which offers great insights into his life and Vietnamese history.
Not far from Ho Chi Minh's House stands the modest, but elegant and unique One-Pillar Pagoda. Nearly 1,000 years old, this splendid little temple was constructed to resemble a lotus flower - a symbol of purity in Buddhism.
7. The Metropole Hotel
A bastion of old world charm, elegance and luxury, the Metropole Hotel has been an integral part of life in Hanoi for more than a century. Opened in 1901, this historic hotel boasts a rich history of welcoming important figures from politics, literature and art. Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda and George Bush (not to mention at least one International TEFL Academy staff member) are just some of the prestigious guests that this rich historical landmark has hosted. If you can't afford to spend the night, it's worth a visit for a cocktail or perhaps splurging on a meal in one of the hotel's award-winning restaurants.
8. Hoa Lo Prison - The "Hanoi Hilton"
Sarcastically nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton" by American POWs - one of whom was Senator (and former presidential candidate) John McCain - who were incarcerated here during the Vietnam War, the Hoa Lo Prison is one of the most notorious symbols of the conflicts that engulfed Vietnam through much of the 20th century. To the Vietnamese, it stands as a symbol of the colonialism and repression of the French who initially constructed it in the 1880s, primarily to detain members of the Vietnamese resistance. To Americans it is synonymous with a long and painful conflict that divided two nations and costs thousands of lives.
9. Water Puppet Performance
For a taste of a beautiful and unique Vietnamese traditional folk art, check out a classic performance of water puppetry. An artform that dates back to the 11th century, water puppets are traditionally made from wood and are manipulated using underwater sticks. Performances recount legends and historical tales, and are often accompanied by traditional Vietnamese music.
10. Hanoi-Style Pho
From fresh gỏi cuốn (spring rolls) to exotic fresh fruits, seafood hot pots and innumerable noodle dishes, the local cuisine is certainly a highlight of living and teaching English in Vietnam. One of the top local specialties in Hanoi is Hanoi-style pho - a local version of the famous Vietnamese noodle soup dish that you will see locals eating at corner stalls and street side stands throughout the city for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yum!
Q&A from ITA Alumni - Teaching English in Vietnam:
Alumni Articles - Teaching English Abroad:
A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Vietnam - Jacklynn Blanchard
On Her Way: My beginnings in Vietnam - Teaching English Abroad - Jacklynn Blanchard
Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy is a world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad & teaching English online. ITA offers accredited TEFL certification classes online & in 25 locations worldwide and has received multiple awards & widespread recognition as one of the best TEFL schools in the world. ITA provides all students and graduates with lifetime job search guidance. ITA has certified more than 25,000 English teachers and our graduates are currently teaching in 80 countries worldwide.
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