Hanoi – a City of History and Contrast

Early rise…..

In the morning, the streets quickly turned into an open market which, in the hot sun, disappeared as fast as it appeared.  Many people gathered along the concrete shore of the lakes to take advantage of the cooler and quieter part of the day.  They performed physical exercises, Group Tai Chi, coordinated-dancing, and the elderly were brought out to enjoy the morning.

Tour of duty…

We did a mini guided tour of the city of Hanoi, paying a tour guide to lead us  to several places.  The tour guide gave us good explanations but it soon became ‘information overload’ in the hot heat.  A visit to the local ceramic factory was included to encourage us to spend.  Lunch was good.  Many Photo opportunities.


Personal reflection..

Like any city, tourists are seen as walking wallets.  It is easy to notice how the prices of everything are higher or are put up for tourists/foreigners.  Despite that, Hanoi is still a relatively cheap city.

I think Hanoi is a city of contrast.  It is a city that is at once both old and young.  It is the seat of the Communist government and the capital of modern day Vietnam.  At the same time, it has one of the oldest Buddhist temples that dates back to the 6th century, the Tran Quoc Pagoda  temple.  It has the Temple of Literature, which is a Temple of Confucius – thus connecting it back with Chinese rule and culture.  The temple  hosted Vietnam’s first National University.  It has a Catholic Cathedral, St Joseph’s opened in 1886.

There is much to see and to do.  I am sure I have only scratched the surface.  One can delve into the past, or enjoy the city’s bustling life, or simply relax and chill out.  I am glad to have visited this city and at the same time, glad to leave it.  I think its innocence and charm will one day be lost.  It is not hard to see the pollution and corruption.  Its not hard to see a ‘dig eat dog’ capitalism just walking the streets in a country that pushes Marxist as the living philosophy.

Our tour guide presented to us Ho Chi Minh the leader a figure that would pass for a demi-god.  He was presented as one of the most intelligent men in history, a humble polyglot which has made Vietnam the “successful” country that it is.  His lines sounded so much like propaganda I wondered if our tour guide had ever experienced life elsewhere to make that generalisation.  The Malay proverb comes to mind: “Like a frog under a coconut shell”.

There were many photo opportunities – and at the same time, the heat of the day takes away one’s creativity with the camera