Sam's Exotic Travels to Historic Hanoi - Capital of Vietnam
A visit to Hanoi, Vietnam is stepping back in time, somewhat reminiscent of Beijing in the early 1980's. Signs of French occupation in housing is still apparent, and their war memorials and art galleries give testament to the long wars that ravaged the country. Yet the spirit of its people, the daily life show the eternal hope and give promise to what long-lasting peace can bring this wonderful country.
Hanoi), with a population of 3,500,000, is the capital of Vietnam . The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi became the capital of the Vietnam in the 7th century. Its Chinese-derived name, Đông Kinh, became Tonkin and was applied by Europeans to the entire region. Hanoi was occupied by the French in 1873 and passed to them ten years later. It became the capital of French Indochina after 1887.
The city was occupied by the Japanese in 1940, and liberated in 1945, when it became the seat of Vietnam's government. From 1946 to 1954, it was the scene of heavy fighting between the French and Viet Minh forces. At that point, the city became the capital of an independent North Vietnam.
During the Vietnam War Hanoi's transportation facilities were disrupted by the bombing of bridges and railways, which were, however, immediately repaired. Following the end of the war Hanoi was established as the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were united on July 2, 1976.
My photo albums include the following:
These will give you an overall impression of Hanoi and its people:
People - The people of Hanoi and of Vietnam are wonderful, friendly and courteous. I enjoyed getting out and walking. I didn't see one beggar, although a few of the sidewalk vendors were kind of pushy. although on the whole everyone was friendly and open.
Sidewalk "cafes" - Most of the people in Hanoi seemed to eat on the sidewalk itself sitting on small stools. Establishments ranged from those that served 2 to 3 people to those serving over a dozen. Food is cooked in open pots and bowls and chopsticks are washed right on the sidewalk. Not the cleanest place to eat, but everyone seemed to be enjoying the limited dishes.
Street Scenes - These pictures show the good, the bad and the ugly of Hanoi. There are a lot of French style architecture, typical Vietnam housing (narrow and long, extending up to as many as six floors), some rustic beauty, housing along side of fragrant sewers/streams and people on mopeds, small motorcycles and bicycles. There are shopping, restaurants, modern hotels and run down buildings -- and its the same in every part of town. What I didn't see were litter, homeless people and object poverty. It is a poor country, but proud, and I think this tells a lot about Vietnamese pride.
Others - arranged by each of the sites visited:
Hanoi Opera House - The centerpiece of French architecture in Hanoi and one of the grandest buildings in the city, the Hanoi Opera House is a small-scale version of the Paris Opéra designed by Charles Garnier and completed in 1875. The Hanoi structure, finished in 1911, incorporates the same grand elements of Napoleonic architectural style. We stopped for 10 minutes at the Opera House. It and the grounds weren't open to the public, but it one of the most beautiful of the places we saw from the outside. if I ever go back, I hope to see a performance.
Ho Chi Minh Park - It's hard to overstate Ho Chi Minh's heroic stature among the Vietnamese and how significant his mausoleum and the surrounding area are in Vietnam's ideological consciousness. Respected as a determined revolutionary patriot and loved as a public figure who empathized with the people, particularly of the North, Ho Chi Minh has reached icon status in the minds of most Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh Park includes several buildings, gardens and a large square. The buildings include Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, the "House on Stilts" where he worked, his "fishing pond", the "One Legged" Pagoda and a museum.
Hoen Kiem Lake - The spiritual, legendary, and social heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake, the Lake of the Restored Sword, is one of the most enchanting spots in the city. In the early morning mist locals come to the lakeshore to swing their arms and legs in exercise, play badminton, and practice tai chi. The lake serves as a gathering point and performance venue during major festivals such as Tet and for holidays like National Day, but it's also a relaxing lunchtime escape or evening rendezvous for friends and lovers.
Military History Museum - The Vietnam Military History Museum is one of six national museums. It was established on Dec 22, 1959 in the center of Hanoi city, near Lenin's statue and 600 meters from President Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum to the east. A well-known ancient monument on the grounds of the museum is Hanoi Flag Tower, classified as a national historic cultural monument, which was completed in 1812. The Vietnam Military History Museum offers the history of the Vietnamese armed forces under the leadership of President Ho Chi Minh in wars against the French and American forces.
National Fine Arts Museum - The evolution of Vietnamese art is sparingly chronicled in this musty three-story museum, which opened in 1966 after serving as a boardinghouse for French girls living in Indochina. The architecture, sculpture, drawing, and fine arts of Vietnam are displayed in a series of exhibits, mainly organized chronologically. No pictures were permitted of the paintings, which were mostly in dark colors and many included war scenes, since most of the 1900's were war years. It contained two buildings and galleries in each on three levels.
St. Joseph's Cathedral - The imposing square towers of this cathedral rise up from a small square near Hoan Kiem Lake on the edge of the Old Quarter. French missionaries built the cathedral in the late 19th century and celebrated the first Mass here on Christmas Day 1886. The government closed down the cathedral in 1975, but when it reopened 10 years later the number of returning devotees was substantial. We went there on Chinese New Year and it wasn't open. While it is a good example of Gothic architecture, it badly needs some restoration, as do many monuments and public parks. Hanoi has many power surges. If you notice the picture of the utility pole, which is representative of many parts of town, it is easy to see why.
Temple of Literature - An unusually well preserved example of Vietnamese architecture, this monument to Confucius, built in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, is widely considered the most important historic site in Dong Da District. In 1076 it became the site of Vietnam's first university, Quoc Tu Giam, which specialized in training students -- many of them sons and daughters of emperors and other high-ranking dignitaries -- to pass the rigorous examinations for government and civil service posts. The French later used the building as, appropriately, their school of civil administration, dubbing it the Temple of the Crows because of the birds that tended to gather here. It is now is a national museum.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre - Water Puppets is an art form unique to Vietnam. Puppeteers stand in the water behind a bamboo curtain and manipulate the puppets by poles under the water. The various skits are accompanied by musicians using traditional Vietnamese instruments. The Thang Long Theatre performers have traveled throughout the world in various international festivals and cultural exchange programs.
West Lake - Another large lake which has a very nice Buddhist Pagoda, some statues, restaurants and hawkers. I haven't been able to find out anything more about it, as our tour guide only spoke Cantonese.
Why not bookmark this site - and when you finish your tour, please sign the Guestbook and let me know what you think. If you like my site, I would also appreciate it if you would share it with your friends who also like travel and/or photography by clicking on the link below.
Please note that all photographs and text appearing on this site are the exclusive intellectual property of Sam Stearman. No images are within the Public Domain, and no image use is permitted without the written prior authorization of the copyright owner. If you see any pictures you would like to buy, all the thousands of pictures on this site are available in high resolution digital format, suitable for framing, use in magazines or advertising. Email me if you would like to know more.