Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam. It was eclipsed by Huế, the imperial capital of Vietnam during the Nguyễn Dynasty (1802–1945), but Hanoi served as the capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, it was the capital of North Vietnam, and it became the capital of a reunified Vietnam in 1976, after the North’s victory in the Vietnam War.
The city lies on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is 1,760 km (1,090 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City and 120 km (75 mi) west of Hai Phong city.October 2010 officially marked 1000 years since the establishment of the city.
On May 29, 2008, it was decided that Hà Tây Province, Vĩnh Phúc Province’s Mê Linh District and 4 communes of Lương Sơn District, Hòa Bình Province be merged into the metropolitan area of Hanoi from August 1, 2008. Hanoi’s total area then increased to 334,470 hectares in 29 subdivisions with the new population being 6,232,940. effectively tripling its size. The Hanoi Capital Region (Vùng Thủ đô Hà Nội), a metropolitan area covering Hanoi and 6 surrounding provinces under its administration, will have an area of 13,436 square kilometres (5,188 sq mi) with a population of 15 million by 2020
Hanoi is served by Noi Bai International Airport, located in the Soc Son District, approximately 40 km (25 mi) north of Hanoi. Noi Bai is the only international airport for the northern regions of Vietnam. Hanoi will add another international airport which will cost $8 billion, the highest foreign investment so far in the history of Vietnam. The construction will be carried out in three stages, starting in 2011 and continuing until 2015. There are two main highways linking the airport and city. The route to the city via Thăng Long Bridge is more direct than Highway 1, which runs along the outskirts of the city. The main highways are shared by cars, motor scooters, with separate lanes by the side for bicycles. Taxis are plentiful and usually have trip meters, although it is also common to agree on the trip price before taking a taxi from airport to the city centre. Tourists also sometimes tour the city on cyclos, especially in the Old Quarter.
Hanoi is also the origin departure point for many Vietnam Railways train routes in the country. The Reunification Express (tàu Thống Nhất) runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi station (formerly Hang Co station), with stops at cities and provinces along the line. Trains also depart Hanoi frequently for Hai Phong and other northern cities.The Reunification Express line was established during French colonial rule and was completed over a period of nearly forty years, from 1899 to 1936. The Reunification Express between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City covers a distance of 1,726 km (1,072 mi) and takes approximately 33 hours. As of 2005, there were 278 stations on the Vietnamese railway network, of which 191 were located along the North-South line.
The main means of transport within Hanoi city are motorbikes, buses, taxis, and bicycles. Over the preceding decades, motorbikes have overtaken bicycles as the main form of transportation. The increased number of motorcycles can cause gridlocks. To reduce them and the negative consequences for environment and health the local government tries to increase public transportation. Public buses run on many routes and fare can be purchased on the bus, with very cheap prices (20 cents for a journey where a taxi might cost $10.)
Persons on their own or traveling in a pair who wish to make a fast trip around Hanoi, to avoid traffic jams or to travel at an irregular time or by way of an irregular route, often use “xe ôm” (literally, “hug vehicle”) motorbikes, which are unofficial, unregulated motorcycle taxis that involve the passenger sitting on the rear of a motorbike. Idle xe ôm riders often yell “xe ôm” at pedestrians that pass by, and signs saying “xe ôm” adorn many a tree, pole or post around the city (as with all Vietnamese cities, towns, and villages,etc.) to advertise that a xe ôm vehicle and rider is often parked there. It is customary to negotiate the price of a xe ôm trip with xe ôm riders. Motorbikes can also be rented from agents within the Old Quarter of Hanoi.