How many thousandth birthday parties have you been to? Chances are, not that many. Lucky for you, Hanoi extended an open invitation to celebrate the big 1-0-0-0 in 2010. But the city's fascinating history is available anytime. Conquered by China in the 1400's and colonized by France in the 1800's, Hanoi still bears the strong influence of both cultures with a distinctly Vietnamese twist. Join an early morning t'ai chi along one of Hanoi's lakes or sip coffee on a patio cafe under a tree-lined street. While just wandering through wide boulevards and French colonial architecture while dodging motorbikes (some carrying entire families ... and their chicken) and street vendors is enough of a highlight in itself, other attractions include temples, pagodas and a host of Vietnam war-era museums (including some of John McCain's possessions at the Hoa Lo Museum, once better known as the Hanoi Hilton). Although there is a Hilton now in Hanoi (called the Hilton Hanoi Opera House
), one of the charms of Hanoi is in its relatively inexpensive small hotels, many centered in the millennium-old Old Quarter. Stroll over to the happening French Quarter or the scenic Hoan Kiem Lake
for dinner at a restaurant where the luscious surroundings are as appetizing as the impeccably prepared Vietnamese and fusion dishes.