Monday, 16 May 2011


Here are some more photographs from Hanoi to finish off the last two posts.
The original Tran Quoc pagoda was built in the 6th century and is considered the oldest in Vietnam. It was founded on the bank of the Red River by King Ly Nam De who named it Khai Quoc (National Founder). Much later, it was moved to its present site beside Hanoi’s Ho Tay (West) Lake during the reign of King Le Kinh Tong (1600-1618) and renamed Tran Quoc (National Defence). The current building is the result of major renovations in 1815.
Waiting to enter the temple precinct of the Tran Quoc pagoda.
The term "pagoda" is from Portuguese "pagode", perhaps based on Persian "butkada" - ‘temple of idols,’ influenced by Prakrit "bhagodī" - ‘divine’.
The altar in the temple adjacent to the Tran Quoc pagoda.
The loads carried on bicycles around the city are simply astounding!
Thousands upon thousands of lotus blossoms (Nelumbo nucifera) are offered daily in temples. Here the buds are being prepared for sale.
We went to see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is open from 8:00-11:00 am Tuesdays-Thursdays and at weekends. Be prepared for extremely long queues and a long wait!
The large mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body lies in a bier inside a glass case. Visitors must file through the room without stopping. No photography is allowed, and all personal possessions must be left outside.
The building was erected with assistance from the USSR, and is a good example of Soviet architecture of the period. It’s guarded by an honour guard of Vietnamese soldiers in immaculate white dress uniforms who march around the building at regular intervals. Ho Chi Minh left directions for his cremation in his will. However, at the time of his death in 1969, the year after the Tet Offensive, the war was still raging and morale was low. Communist Party chiefs recognised his iconic status and overrode his wishes.
The One Pillar Pagoda was built originally in 1049 during the Ly dynasty and is located on the west side of the original capital of Thang Long. According to the legend, King Ly Thai To dreamt that Goddess Quan Am sat on a lotus leaf and promised him a son. Soon after the king married a peasant girl and she bore him a son. The king became so overwhelmingly happy that he constructed a wooden pagoda on a stilt in a lake so that the goddess of Mercy- Quan Am, could be venerated and the long life of his son could be assured. He named the pagoda “Dien Huu”, which means happiness and good luck. According to a theory, the pagoda was built in a style so as to resemble a lotus emerging out of the water.
The pagoda is both small and striking. It is an extremely popular attraction and place of pilgrimage.
 The altar inside the One Pillar Pagoda.
 Young devotees lighting incense and praying outside the One Pillar Pagoda.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum preserves everything memorable related to the great revolutionist, Ho Chi Minh. The Museum consists of five extensive floors and was inaugurated on 2nd September, 1990, celebrating the 100th birthday occasion of the beloved Vietnamese President.

The area around the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum is full of extensive gardens, parks, temples and other attractions, so definitely an area of the city worth visiting.
The Hanoi Citadel complex is in the process of being released by the Army - two buildings are now accessible, and more are to follow. Originally known as the Dai La Citadel, King Ly Thai To renamed it Thang Long Citadel (“Ascending Dragon” – the old name of Hanoi) in 1010. Over many centuries various monarchs moved the capital to other places and their successors moved it back again to Hanoi often modifying and rebuilding elements of the Citadel several times. In 1888 the defeated Nguyen Dynasty surrendered the Hanoi Citadel to the French colonialists. Hanoi became a colonial city for 66 years until the French were expelled in 1954. During their occupancy, the colonists broke down the walls of Citadel and destroyed most of the buildings inside. The old Watchtower remains, and offers an excellent view of the whole complex.
The Army Museum is located next to the Citadel and offers a vivid and fascinating history of the Vietnam War under the leadership of Vietnam’s communist party and of president Ho Chi Minh. The history of Vietnam’s struggle for peace, independence and freedom of the nation is captured in the thousands of exhibits of the museum.
The museum displays a wide collection of military waste including a MIG fighter, anti-aircraft missiles, tanks, and remarkable heap of wreckage from a US B52 bomber and French prop driven plane that were both blast in the Hanoi area and the tank that exploded through the gates in Saigon during the battle for liberation.
One of the back streets of Hanoi.
A barber plying his trade on the sidewalk in an improvised salon!
Maison Centrale, or to be precise, Hoa Lo Prison (Hoa Lo in Vietnamese means "fiery furnace"), is the infamous "Hanoi Hilton", as what the American prisoners-of-war nicknamed it, a sarcastic reference to the upmarket Hilton hotel chain. Its most famous inmate was probably Douglas Pete Peterson, the first US ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and John McCain, the US pilot who later became a senator. The name Maison Centrale comes from the French, where the term Maison Centrale usually refers to a prison back in France.
Maison Centrale housed Vietnamese political prisoners during their struggle for independence during the colonial period. In 1997 most of the complex was demolished to give away for development, but only parts of the old prison was preserved and turned to museum. It is an amazing experience seeing how the inmates used to live, how they were tortured and executed.
The original guillotine used in the executions of condemned prisoners.
A memorial to all the victims of torture and execution in the prison.
One of a series of plaques depicting the wretched life of hardship and torture inside the prison.
The National Cancer Institute is the leading hospital specialising in cancer treatment of Vietnam, which was established on the existing Indochina Radium Institute, the most long-standing unit for cancer control in the region (since 1923), established by the French in a more benevolent mood.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is built in European neo-Gothic style and dominates a small square in the heart of Hanoi’s tourist area facing a street of restaurants and boutiques. It was one of the first buildings erected by the French colonists, and was completed in 1886 – many of the materials and most of the craftspeople were imported from France. Most of the stained glass windows are original and good examples of the craft. Unfortunately it was closed when we visited.
The Hanoi Opera House rises magnificently at the end of the Trang Tien Street. Modelled on the Parisian Palais Garnier, and built by the French colonists in 1911 it was renovated in the late 1990s. The façade of the building is colonial French with pillars and balconies overlooking the city centre. Various performances of art - local, international, traditional, modern are staged at this 900-seat opera house, professionally managed by a solid team of various experts with the Vietnamese symphonies playing quite regularly. 
A timeless picture captured from the taxi, on our way to the airport.
Rice paddy and lone cyclist...


  1. While viewing your great photos, one really almost has the sense of being there and seeing it for themselves.