Hanoi is the perfect thwart for the seething mass of humanity that is Ho Chi Minh City. With a population of four million and a more refined style than its southern counterpart, Hanoi is the cultural capital of Vietnam and its heart and soul. Vietnam's capital lies on the banks of the Red River, some 100 kilometres from its mouth. Human settlements here date back as much as to the 3rd century BC. Formerly known as Thang Long, it was renamed Hanoi in 1831 at a time when Hue was the capital. Large areas of present-day Hanoi were constructed during the French occupation, reflected in its broad boulevards and French-inspired architecture, which give the metropolis a definite allure.