Monday, September 24, 2012

Memories of Ha Noi

After our Cambodia/Viet Nam tour had finished, Pat and I had a few days in Ha Noi.  After the hectic pace of the tour, it was good to have this time to explore the city at our own pace.  Here are some random shots from this exploration:


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Walking along the footpath was always a challenge.





Churchgoers parking beside the Ham Long Catholic Church, waiting to go in.



Some students who interviewed us near the Hoan Kiem Lake for an English assignment.



Huc Bridge to the Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake.


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Little girl seriously posing to have her portrait sketched.



One of the many brides being photographed beside Hoan Kiem Lake, this time in western wedding dress.


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Watching the bride.


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For her backdrop, this bride has chosen Thap Rua (Turtle Tower), often used as an emblem of Hanoi.


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Opposite our hotel.



The French influence could be seen in the pastry shops.



The Ha Noi Opera House basks in the afternoon sun.

The Opera House was erected by the French colonial administration between 1901 and 1911. It was modelled on the Palais Garnier, the older of Paris’ two opera houses, and is considered to be one of the architectural landmarks of Hanoi.

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While we were there, Viet Nam was  preparing to celebrate 57 years of independence on 2nd September.



Typical Vietnamese “tube houses” seen from our hotel window.



Bach Ma Temple, Old Quarter, Ha Noi.  This small temple is said to be the oldest in the city, although much of the current structure dates from the 18th century.



Bach Ma Temple was originally built by Emperor Ly Thai To in the 11th century to honour a white horse that guided him to this site, where he chose to construct his city walls.



Inside Bach Ma Temple.



Ha Noi is very cosmopolitan.  The first thing you will notice inside Finnegan’s Irish Pub is a motorbike.  People here are very protective of their motorbikes.  I even saw one inside a dress shop, next to a bridal gown.



The Hanoi Legacy Hotel, in the Old Quarter, was a surprise.  As we walked past, the manager invited us in for a look, as they do. 


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We went in, under the chandelier in front of the ornate front door.  (You can see our reflection in the glass doors.)



The marble carvings in the lobby were quite spectacular.  But the biggest surprise was that it had only been open for 17 days.  (We think Judy would like this hotel.)



Dinh Kim Ngan: Restoration of the jewellers’ communal house

The communal house of Kim Ngan was built to honour of the legendary founder of the silver trade, Hien Vien. Originally, this was where the silver was melted and cast in moulds and where currency exchange was conducted. From the end of the 19th century through to the 20th century, the house became a meeting and training centre for silversmiths in the street.

For several decades, twenty families had occupied the building that was in an advanced state of decay. Only the place of worship and a meeting room still remained open to the public. In 2004, the City of Ha Noi made the decision to restore this historic building with support from the City of Toulouse and to re-house the families. The restoration was achieved at the beginning of 2011.

Thus, the dinh retains its ever vibrant function as a place of worship and is also a meeting place for the inhabitants of the street. It also hosts cultural activities intended to promote and showcase the best of the work of the craftsmen, while also handing down their skills.



In the temple area of the Kim Ngan communal house.


While we were there, there was a hat display on.



Young girl telling us about hats.



Children at the Kim Ngan communal house.




The “Boking office”.


Keeping the fish fresh.


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Balloons flying over the Huc Bridge to the Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake.


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As well as negotiating cooking fires on the footpath, sometimes you had to make your way around piles of burning rubbish.



Pat checking out Au Lac, a beautiful colonial French restaurant where we had lunch one day.  Actually, the duck we had was quite fatty and tough, but the restaurant was beautiful:



Ha Noi Ceramic Mosaic Mural is a ceramic mosaic mural on the wall of the dyke system of Ha Noi. With a length of about 4km, the Ceramic Road is one of the major projects that were developed on the occasion of the Millennial Anniversary of Ha Noi in October 2010.

The mosaic wall is made from ceramic tesserae from Bat Trang, a village famous for its Bat Trang porcelain.

The content of the mosaic represents the decorative patterns from different periods in the history of Viet Nam.    Also incorporated on the wall are modern art works, paintings of Ha Noi and children's drawings.

It was created from 2007 to 2010, involving 20 Vietnamese and 15 foreign artists and 500 children from across the country and around the world plus 100 craftsmen from traditional ceramic villages.

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The project has received a plaque from the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest ceramic mosaic in the world.


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Sunset from our hotel window.

And so ended our amazing journey.

Thank you Pat for finding, organising and sharing this experience with me.

Love, Jan.

Have wheels, will travel.

Although I had heard about it, it’s not until you see it with your own eyes, that you realise how resourceful the Vietnamese and Cambodian people are with their pushbikes and motor bikes.  I have seen, and admired, entire books of photos of what people put onto bikes.

I found bikes very difficult to photograph:

  • They are moving, so they either blur or you miss them altogether.
  • There is usually something else moving between you and the bike you want to photograph.
  • Bikes I photographed from the bus window usually ended up with window glare.
  • Sometimes I felt I was embarrassing the rider.

I totally missed my two favourite bike moments.  One was a man on a pushbike loaded up with about 30 large cube-shaped plastic bags of water each containing a large goldfish, about 20cm long.  The other was a family of six on one motor bike.  By the time I took out my camera, both moments had passed. 

Here is a selection of some bike moments from our trip.  Some are a bit blurry or obscured, but I still wanted to savour the moment:


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Taken from a tuk tuk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  In front of us is a motor bike pulling a trailer carrying a load of pipes, at least seven large white sacks with three men sitting on the sacks.  You can see the back wheel of the motor bike under the trailer.


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Now we’re a bit closer.



Here is a side view of the same bike.  (I promise that there is a bike pulling it all, I saw it.) 



Still in Phnom Penh.  This man is wheeling a push bike loaded with enough baskets, brooms and feather dusters to stock a small shop.



This tuk tuk in Phnom Penh, proudly flying the Cambodian flag, looks as though it is involved in house demolition.


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You don’t even need a trailer if you have a friend to carry your load for you.   


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Two pretty girls and a baby.


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Little one calmly plays, in between Mum and Dad.


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Three on a bike (no helmets) Phnom Penh.


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Four on this bike, but at least one of them has a helmet.



I think there are seven people in the trailer behind this bike.



Timber-carrying motor bikes.


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One in front and one behind.  I think the little fellow in front is actually balancing on the angled bar of the bike.  This is at the stone-carving village between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.  The carving they are passing features the Cambodian symbol of the towers of Angkor Wat. 

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Waiting outside the school at home time, Hoi An, Viet Nam.


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Chickens.   One of the villages between Halong Bay and Ha Noi.


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Also in one of the villages between Halong Bay and Ha Noi.


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This is one of my favourites.  This and the following pictures are all in Ha Noi.

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Traffic would generally stop at the lights, but you still had to keep an eye out for the odd car or bike which would decide to come through anyway.






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When you’re wearing a short skirt, there’s only one way to sit.


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A bike can also double as a shop front or a chair.


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A floral arrangement, complete with cane stand.



Our guide told us that the masks, which many people wear, are not to protect against pollution, as we had thought, but to stop the people’s skin getting too dark. 

White skin is prized in Asian countries as much as tan skin is in our culture.  Many women wear this kind of jacket while riding, which protects the face, arms and hands from the sun.


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As if he didn’t already have enough on the back of his bike, this rider also has some of his cargo held between his knees and on his lap.


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While this mother is wearing her “white skin” jacket, the children don’t even have helmets.


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Cyclo for tourists.



Not sure who is steering here.









Crossing the road in the rare places where there are traffic lights can be quite intimidating, as you launch yourself out in front of this solid wall of bikes and cars, especially as they don’t all necessarily stop.

Even more intimidating is crossing the road where there are no lights.  The trick is just to launch yourself out into this moving mass, walk slowly and steadily, and they will avoid you.  But it takes a lot of nerve.








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Making a sale.


Feather dusters and brooms.

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Glimpsed from an upper balcony, through Ha Noi’s tangled wiring.


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