The North Koreans we have brought to Hanoi have always reacted with a mix of curiosity and skepticism towards Hanoi. For those participants who remembered the bicycles that ply the streets of Hanoi and now see motorbikes everywhere, it is an amazing change. Compared to the organized and planned nature of Pyongyang City, the chaos of Hanoi is bewildering and confusing. Many of them seem more similarities with Singapore, where the heavy planning hand of the state is more visible. But there is a visible frenetic energy to Hanoi city that we hope the visiting North Korean leadership delegation picks up on at this upcoming Hanoi Summit.
Mapping out where the North Koreans will go and what they will do will not be easy. Unlike Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi has a very dispersed urban landscape. There is a central government complex which will definitely host a state visit for Kim Jong Un. This is centered around Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum (see map). The Pullman Hotel is nearby. The Opera House is beautiful, and the new parliament building is impressive too. You can find the DPRK embassy nearby in the embassy district. The Metropole Hotel is swanky and President Trump stayed here for his last visit to Hanoi.
Remember the city view Kim Jong Un had from the top of the Marina Bay Sands last year? It would be good for the Koreans to get a city view to see how Hanoi has developed. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, some of the best views are on buildings built by South Koreans - these include the Lotte Center and the Kaengnam Landmark Tower. A little awkward for the North Koreans, but could be a good nod towards investments from South Korea.
From a security perspective, the Sheraton and Pan Pacific located in the upscale residential West Lake area are good locations for staying/meeting. They are a little more isolated and located north of the main government complex with a long commute with traffic downtown. But for a major event like this, it is not inconceivable that the main road downtown along the lake will be restricted if delegations stay on this side of the city.
Traffic will be a nightmare so rent a scooter.