How to get there
The lowest round-trip air fare between Boston and Hanoi at press time was $1,657 on US Airways, Thai Airways, and American Airlines.
Where to stay
This five-star, French-built hotel has been painstakingly restored. Spacious rooms have dark woods, white linens, and muted colors, and the large bathrooms have latticed screens and fluffy towels. Two elegant dining rooms and a grand bar make this a true oasis amid the din of Hanoi. Impeccable service, genteel ambience. Rooms from $190.
Ana Mandara Resort
Every room is a villa, steps from the beach, where thatched umbrellas shade cushioned chaises overlooking the South China Sea. Unfurl the orange flag in the umbrella stand and an attendant comes running. Two pools, a spa, open-air restaurants, and lickety-split service add to the understated luxury, as do the good-night poems left on your pillow at bedtime. Doubles from $216.
HO CHI MINH CITY
19 Lam Son Square
The chic architecture and rooftop bar of the Caravelle, which opened in 1959, made it a favorite of the international media, but it lost some of its luster after the Vietnam War. A 24-story tower was added in the 1990s, providing lovely views, and the hotel roared back to life, even winning a part in the recent movie of Graham Greene's ''The Quiet American." Rooms from $230.
Where to eat
Club Opera59 Ly Thai To St.
Cozy sophistication meets culinary subtlety. Try a sampling of dishes from the international menu, but choose mostly from the Vietnamese side for some of the most refined tastes anywhere in the city. Meals $12-$18.
63A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St.
A boisterous restaurant featuring the cuisine from north, central, and south Vietnam. Eel with banana is a specialty, and the beef in tamarind sauce, sesame-fried shrimp, and seafood hot pot are delicious. Meals from $8.
111 Nguyen Thai Hoc
Chef Duc Tran whips up an eclectic array of dishes and drinks, inspired by his years in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. Tran's fusion cuisine is the buzz of Hoi An. Don't leave without trying the Mango Margarita, Scent of Green Papaya Salad, and the Bananarama dessert. Dishes from $4.
HO CHI MINH CITY
29-31 Ton That Thiep St.
French colonial-style club with haute variations of Vietnamese dishes. An added attraction is the cozy reading room, where diners can retire for an after-dinner drink. Meals from $12.
What to do
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Duong Hung Vuong (Ba Dinh Square)
The leader of Vietnam lies spotlighted and serenely embalmed as visitors walk past, under strict orders of silence. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday 7:30-11 a.m. Closed October-November, when the body is flown to Russia for refurbishment.
Hoa Lo Prison Museum (a.k.a. the Hanoi Hilton)
1 Hoa Lo St.
A portion of the French-built jail, nicknamed the ''Hanoi Hilton" by the American prisoners of war (among them US Senator John McCain) held there during the war, still stands, its stark cells and torture chambers intact. Daily 8-11 a.m. and 1:30-5:30 p.m.
Temple of Literature
Quoc Tu Giam
Vietnam's first university dates from 1070 and includes five courtyards, inscribed with the names of 1,036 graduates, and an ornate sanctuary and temple. Daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
HO CHI MINH CITY Reunification Palace
Nam Ky Khoi Nghia
The site of some of the war's more dramatic moments, the palace is an architectural throwback to the 1960s. Here, President Diem survived a bombing in an attempted coup, and the Viet Cong essentially ended the conflict when their tanks crashed through the gates. Daily 7:30-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.
The Imperial City
A moat surrounds this walled city built for kings in the 1800s to house members of the Nguyen Dynasty, including the concubines kept behind the gates of the Forbidden Purple City. A huge tract where only 80 of the original 300 buildings remain (victims of the Tet Offensive, among other disasters), this is one of the most impressive sites in Vietnam. Daily 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Where to shop
The Old Quarter
A maze of shops and restaurants on the northern tip of Hoan Kiem Lake, this bustling area has 36 streets, each named for the type of merchandise originally (and, in many cases, still) sold there: paper, tinware, musical instruments, herbs, for example.
Viet Nam Pure Silk
19 Le Thanh Ton St.
Doan Trang will make anything you want from her selection of silks. Custom-tailored clothing for men and women. Dresses for $22, jackets for $35.