Thong Nhat Park, a 15-minute ride from Hoan Kiem Lake, is a great spot to relax with a book or enjoy a stroll without having to avoid Hanoi’s motorbikes and street vendors.
Thong Nhat Park covers an area of more than 50 hectares in Hai Ba Trung district, to the south of Hoan Kiem. It was inaugurated in 1960, at which time the country was divided; the park was named Thong Nhat which means ‘united’, expressing the hope of reunification. Although it was, for many years, renamed as Lenin Park, it has now reverted to its original name. Lenin Park is now the name of a small park on Dien Bien Phu, opposite the Vietnam Military History Museum and Flag Tower.
The park is very attractive and superior to the Botanical Gardens, which gets more of the tourist press but is far smaller and busier. Thong Nhat is spacious, with well-manicured lawns — note that you should not walk or sit on the grass — and a variety of trees, which offer shade to the pathways and benches.
The seven-hectare lake makes for an impressive centrepiece and a good walking circuit and also offers the opportunity to take a swan boat out for a ride. A bridge on the west bank leads to a picture-perfect island in the middle of the lake and the column structures set up to the north of the lake — we assume for wedding photography — may feel out of sorts in Hanoi but contribute to the prettiness of the park.
While the rest of the park is well cared for, the kids’ rides scattered throughout the park can best be described as rickety and rusty. Only a few were open on our last visit — the merry-go-round and the roller coaster — but the riders seemed to be having fun. Rides cost between 15,000 and 25,000 VND per person.
The park comes to life in the early morning and early evening as Vietnamese flock to exercise or to meet with friends, walking or running along the many paths and taking advantage of the space made available for badminton courts. It’s also popular in the evening among couples looking for a place to smooch.
During the day, however, the park is almost deserted and the perfect place to get away from it all with a good book or to take a stroll along paths that aren’t strewn with parked motorbikes or food stalls. Due to its location between four main roads, it’s never completely quiet, but the beeping horns are more background noise than intrusive, and easy enough to block out.
It’s also worth a visit if you’re in Hanoi with children: although the rides are rickety and the grass a no-go area, there’s still plenty of space to run around.
If you need another reason to visit, while you can expect to receive smiles and hellos you are unlikely to be approached by anyone trying to sell you something or ask for donations — so that’s bonus points compared to Old Quarter.
Although the main entrance is along the northern gate, on Tran Nhan Thon Street, entrances, with motorbike and bicycle parking, are located all around the park. Motorbike parking is 2,000 VND during the day and 3,000 VND in the evening with bicycles 1,000 and 2,000 VND respectively. Entrance is 4,000 VND per adult and 2,000 VND per child, payable at the gate. Cafes at the northern end of the lake serve a range of light refreshments at reasonable prices or head to Tran Nhan Thon Street for bia hoi.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 30th January, 2015.