September 02, 2016

The legendary city of Hanoi — retains much of its older charm of bygone eras

Nwe Nwe Tun

Hoan Kiem Lake & The Huc Bridge.
Hoan Kiem Lake & The Huc Bridge.


Continued from yesterday
One-Pillar Pagoda is situated between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. It is well-known with many travelers, prayers and Vietnamese. The pagoda was built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong to mark the birth of his heir. It is said he did so following a dream in which a goddess gave him a son floating on a lotus. Fittingly, as one of Hanoi’s most sacred sites, this pagoda rises out of a pond covered in lotuses. Travelers find the One-Pillar Pagoda either charming and lovely or utterly pointless, depending on how many tour groups are crammed into the small grounds at the time of their visit.
The city of Hanoi is made up of four districts: HoànKiếm, Ba Đình, HaiBàTrưng and ĐốngĐa. These districts are greatly contrasted by the skyscrapers and shopping malls. The first is HoànKiếm District, centre of the city, with its heart in the Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake). The enthralling Old Quarter covers its northern half while its southern half has mostly French architecture with shady streets and villas.

Tourists are being seen in front of the Temple of Literature.
Tourists are being seen in front of the Temple of Literature.

The southern half of Hoan Kiem is surrounded with a huge number of foreign embassies. The district has Hanoi’s tourist attractions like Hoan Kiem lake, Ngoc Son temple, The Huc Bridge, the neo-Gothic Hanoi Grand Cathedral (St. Joseph’s Cathedral), Hoa Lo prison, Eiffel-designed Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi Opera House and several museums. Hanoi Opera House is one of the few places in Hanoi to catch a symphony, this century old French colonial building is a popular landmark. Erected by the imperialist administration in 1911, it was modelled on the Palais Garnier, the older of Paris’s two opera houses. Today the grand old lady hosts local and international entertainers and performers.

One-Pillar Pagoda.
One-Pillar Pagoda.

The political centre of Viet Nam is Ba Đình District. It is covering the national assembly building, president’s palace, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and most embassies. It also contains the One-Pillar Pagoda and the discovered Thang Long Citadel. The French Quarter covered with shady boulevards is in its eastern part. Its northeastern part surrounds the Truc Bach lake where John McCain’s plane was shot down. Its western part is mostly residential with great numbers of new skyscrapers around the Japanese Embassy on Lieu Giai street. The third HaiBàTrưng District is located at the south of Hoan Kiem with the largest population of all districts. The district of northern part has French-style streets with giant trees. A large number of universities, including the Hanoi University of Technology are located there.
The fourth district ĐốngĐa which is one of the original four central districts, is mostly residential. The Temple of Literature (Imperial Academy) is the first university of Viet Nam and it is situated in the north end of district, bordering Ba Dinh. TâyHồ District (West Lake) is one of the largest natural lakes of Viet Nam. That district offers its serenity and close proximity to downtown; it is a high-end residential area housing a large population of expatriates. And then many other kinds of districts are located in Hanoi. There have a large number of universities, including the National University’s main campus and Hanoi University of Education. The Museum of Ethnology, one of foreign travelers’ favorite, is located there. Its southwestern part bordering district has numerous high-rises including Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower, Viet Nam’s tallest building. This is where you see a completely different side of a modern Hanoi, in contrast to the old inner districts.
Vietnamese cuisine has various kinds of food which are delicious. ‘Pho Ga’ (chicken noodle soup) and ‘Pho Bo’ (Beef noodle soup) are the most famous cuisine. There are diverse dishes including chicken, beef, fish and seafood. Nowadays, there are hundreds or thousands of restaurants in Hanoi catering to everyone’s taste. Hanoi street foods are becoming a cuisine culture of Hanoi.

Stone tablet mounted on the back of a tortoise at Temple of Literature.
Stone tablet mounted on the back of a tortoise at Temple of Literature.

In Hanoi, there are thousands of street stalls in small enclosed structure on the footpath, with plastic tables and chairs on the pavement. Grabbing a bite at these eateries is a great way to experience the local food and culture. It is worth mentioning that food quality, freshness, and hygiene can be different greatly. A bowl of noodle soup goes for a few Vietnamese dongs. Market food stalls also present a variety of other snacks: fruit portions, sausages, donuts, and other eats. A local famous food in the Hanoi area is dog meat (thịtchó), which is especially popular in the winter. There are a number of restaurants in the Tay Ho district.
Be sure to get your change as a few vendors seem to ‘forget’ to return it to you, and learn a little Vietnamese because vendors often speak little to no English. There is a large supermarket for groceries near the HoanKiem Lake.

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Night Market usually opens from 7PM to nearly 10:30PM. This is a unique market which gathers on a walking street in the old quarter. Prices are negotiable but watch out for the “foreigner pricing” which is fairly common. There are many selling different types of materials ranging from cheap, affordable to very good quality with a high price. However, please bear in mind that when shopping, take your time. Never rush into buying anything. Sellers often give a very high price that you can bargain down to half or one-third of the original price.

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Temple of Literature is located at the south of the Mausoleum. The Temple of Literature was founded in 1070 and established as the country’s first university, which educated the elite ranks and remained open until 1779. The temple features five courtyards and a small museum. The courtyard features numerous stone tablets, each mounted on the back of a tortoise, with the names of graduates over the centuries.

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Ngoc Son Temple extends out into the lake, with small but attractive grounds, displays Vietnamese history and, more memorably, displays the giant turtles, including a mummified specimen. The site is frequently very crowded with tourists. Hoan Kiem Lake is a pleasant park in the centre of town, within easy walking distance from anywhere in the Old Quarter. That lake is locals’ favorite leisure spot, and a great place to watch people practicing Tai Chi in the morning or to sit and read in the afternoon. Hoan Kiem means “returned sword”, and the name comes from a legend in which King Le Loi was given a magical sword by the gods, which he used to drive out the invading Chinese. Later, while boating on the lake, he encountered a giant turtle, which grabbed the sword and carried it down to its depths, returning it to the gods from whom it had come. Rumour has it that the giant turtles still inhabit the lake. A mummified specimen is on display at the Ngoc Son Temple.
We also visited the Traditional Water Puppet Theatre. It is the ideal cultural place for visitors. It is located nearby ancient Hoan Kiem Lake, in the centre of Hanoi Captial. It presents the unique water puppet programme which is extremely attractive spiritual specialty. Puppetry is the traditional art closely connected with the long-standing spiritual life of the Vietnamese people. However, the puppetry art is more and more developed as well as popularized mostly in Viet Nam. The Water Puppet Theatre possesses a special strange attraction, becomes a destination which is liked by many domestic and foreign visitors and tourists. The theatre was established in October 1969 under the investment and guidance of Hanoi City People’s Committee and Department of Culture-Sport and Tourism. The theatre has taken successfully on tour in more than 40 countries in the world, from Asia to Europe, America and Australia.
Water puppetry is one of typical stage art of Viet Nam culture, showing the intelligence, creativeness of people who are being specialties of Vietnamese wet-rice civilization. Water puppetry artists and puppeteers performed various kinds of culture and entertainments such as everyday life activities of Vietnamese people, played stories of national heroes and Vietnamese traditional opera played to the audiences. Water puppetry was performed four times in the day with drums mainly used, la and heavy sound as crackers, and so on. The puppeteers stood waist-deep behind the screen in the water to manipulate the puppets. Water-stage is the special thing of water puppetry art. The actions of puppets do not only depend on pole and string apparatus but also on the force of water as well as the system of rudders and floats in a controlling machine of the puppets.
Readers are advised to visit the Hanoi Capital and enjoy Traditional Water Puppet Show, the most attractive show in more than 40 countries in the world among other many things of tourist attraction.


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