In my post about Notre-Dame in Paris I happened to mention Hanoi in Vietnam. Quite fast we move to Asia. It’s another world, another culture and other customs. And still not really. Vietnam was French for many years and has a lot of influences from France as well. Food, for instance is a mix between French and Thai kitchen, which makes it exciting, a little bit spicy and a little bit French at the same time. In Hanoi, there is the Notre-Dame Cathedral, similar to the one in Paris. The country is socialist and liberty, equality and brotherhood are important. But let’s compare that to France and its revolution: Liberté, égalité, fraternité, does that sound familiar? The religion is not absent either. The majority are Buddists and there are also some catholic. Also that thanks to the French.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral, looks similar to the one in Paris.
I visited Vietnam in spring of 2009. Did I like Vietnam? Yes I did. People are nice, the food is good, there is a lot to see and experience, it’s easy to travel, it’s cheap and genuine. And there are not so many tourists yet. I decided to go there by myself. A little bit scary, but it worked fine. I joined a Swedish group for most of the trip and we travelled by bus from Hanoi, north and then back south. But more about that later. Now we’re staying in Hanoi.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. It’s not as large as Ho Chi Minh city, but it’s large. Large and small at the same time. There are a lot of people and almost everyone has a motorbike. And they are everywhere. Just imagine that chaos. First time I was trying to cross a street was terrifying. Just see this movie and you’ll understand why. I survived. I got a good advice and I survived. The advice was: “Whatever you do, don’t run, look right, look left, look at as many motorbikers you can, take a step, look right, look left, take another step, nice and easy.” And one step at a time, I was on the other side. Going back was as sweaty. The people there are happy and seem to think that it’s possible to transport everything at the same time on a small motorbike, like a family of seven, or waterpipes for a small town or ten pigs or just a few bottles of beer. The only thing that can stop them is lack of creativity and their own minds and that doesn’t happen.
Simple transport can be seen everywhere
Tired and sleepy, we went to a Water Puppet Theatre on the first night in Hanoi. It was nice and very different. The music was special, Vietnameese, the story was about love and life and dragons. I didn’t understand as much as I would like to, but I liked it.
On the next day we went to see Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. There was a lot of people outside, which was fascinating to see. I didn’t go inside, but went to a nearby market. Others who went inside said that you were not allowed to bring in cameras, bags, water bottles or hats, just walk in, look and walk out. Two minutes. I think that choosing the market was good. What I find fascinating is that people looked up to this leader so much and still do, that the line to see him lying dead is three hours long, that newly weds are coming to take a picture in front of the mausoleum, that the people are poor but still very proud of that leader. We saw also his palace nearby and it was huge and magnificent. Why?
The long line to see the dead leader
The time to visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was on the afternoon the second day of my visit to Vietnam. It’s been a world heritage site since 2002. Why not longer, I don’t know, it should have been. It’s still good that it is. It is the place of the old capital city, dated back in 1010, it’s more than thousand years ago. I don’t like dates very much, but this one is still pretty cool. It was of course damaged in our modern times, in 19-th century. What can you say, we are modern and civilized and think that the culture and our heritage is important. At our own place, not at someone else’s. I’m happy that some of it still remains and can be seen.
The red bridge leading to the island with Imperial Citadel Thang Long
As we arrived nearby we saw a small island, a red bridge and a bunch of people on the bridge. The citadel is situated in central Hanoi on that small island. There are old structures and the Vietnamese flag waves proudly from its tower situated in the middle of the island. The place had lots of tourists, but was still genuine and felt quiet, as the time stood still. I liked it a lot, the small island, the red bridge leading to it, the architecture by the entrance.
The magnificent entrance to the citadel
The little island with old remains of Hanoi and the modern city in the background
Hanoi is a city of contrasts. Poor people next to luxury buildings and five-star hotels, a little island with a world’s heritage site next to intense traffic, small streets of the old town with every street with it’s own speciality (shoe salesmen, art shops, clothes’ shops). Even if this is not a rich country and wealthy people, they are rich in culture and history.
And my grade to Vietnam as whole five, and this citadel four out of five.
Link to the site: Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi.