Lonely Planet writes about Hanoi in terms of being 'the great dame of Far East', that confirms the idea of "Orient" as seducive, mysterious and tempting (loving the 'oriental' Lonely Planet language). Can't really find 'oriental charm' (whatever it means. Instead, what I see, is incredibly fast, mid range Asian city with welcoming people (eager to earn money, also on us ) that you can visit, but you can as well skip all together.
I cannot resist comparisons to Warsaw. It has never been a metropoly. It has some intersting mixture of colonial and chineese - influenced architecture, covered with communist monumentalism, but it's far away from Hong Kong or Macau in its 'colonial' style and far far away from Moscow in its 'communist' chic. Just like Warsaw - mid range European city, that has some nice places, but lacks amazing uniqueness that would make it a place that is hard to leave and tempting to return.
But there is something about Vietnam, including Hanoi, that is incredibly touching and moving. Its history. History that becomes meanigful once you are here. The history of Vietnamese nation is an over -2000 thousand years old story of fight against oppression and bad fortunes - against Chineese, French, Americans. And famine and plagues. Only in in last 60 years Vietnam lost twice its tenth of the population - first time, after WWII when over 10% of people died out of famine. Later, during American war wgen alomost 10 millions died or were injured... It is really impressive in how, few decades after the world most horrible atriocities, this country rise in pride and develops fast.
With no glorification of martyrs. With glorigication of one person. Ho - as the men who brought independence and a men who brings pride until today.