Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hanoi(河內市), North Vietnam

Arrived at Hanoi airport at 8.45 am local time in 24-11-2009.

24-11-2009, Hanoi, Vietnam
Arrive at Hanoi

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Hanoi, is located on the right bank of the Red River. It is the capital and second-largest city of Vietnam. The city is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past. It is largely unspoiled by modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now going through a modernization.Its estimated population was 6,232,940 in 2008.

Hanoi has had many names throughout history, all of them are of Sino-Vietnamese origin. During the Chinese domination of Vietnam, it was known as Tống Bình (宋平) and later Long Đỗ (龍肚; literally "dragon's belly"). In 866, it was turned into a citadel and was named Đại La (大羅).

In 1010, Lý Thái Tổ, the first ruler of the Lý Dynasty, moved the capital of Đại Việt (大越, the Great Viet, then the name of Vietnam) to the site of the Đại La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thăng Long (昇龍, Ascending dragon) - a name still used poetically to this day. It remained the capital of Vietnam until 1397, when the capital was moved to Thanh Hóa, also known as Tây Đô (西都, Western Capital). Thăng Long then became Đông Đô (東都, Eastern Capital).

In 1408, Chinese Ming Dynasty attacked and occupied Vietnam, then they renamed Đông Đô as Đông Quan (東關, Eastern Gateway). In 1428, Vietnamese overthrown the Chinese under the leadership of Lê Lợi who later founded the posterior Le Dynasty and renamed Đông Quan. as Đông Kinh (東京, Eastern Capital - the name known to Europeans as Tonkin. The same characters are used for Tokyo, Japan). Right after the end of Tây Sơn Dynasty, it was named Bắc Thành (北城, Northern Citadel).

In 1802, when the Nguyễn Dynasty was established and then moved the capital down to Huế, the name of Thăng Long (昇龍, "ascending dragon") was modified to become different Thăng Long (昇隆, to ascend and flourish). In 1831 the Nguyen emperor Minh Mang renamed it Hà Nội (河内, can be translated as Between Rivers or River Interior) . Hanoi was occupied by the French in 1873 and passed to them ten years later. It became the capital of French Indochina after 1887.

The Chinese conquered the imperial city of of Đại La in 1408 and renamed it Tống Bình. Le Loi repelled the invaders in 1428 and applied the name of Lê Thái Tổ (黎太祖); for his efforts, he received the crown and a slew of legends about his heroic exploits, many centered around the Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter. The Nguyen Dynasty gave the city its modern name of Ha Noi in 1831, but they had transferred power to Hue by then; it remained there until 1887, when the French made Hanoi the capital of all Indochina.

But Hanoi served as the capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, it was the capital of North Vietnam.

The city was occupied by the Japanese in 1940, and liberated in 1945, when it briefly became the seat of the Viet Minh government after Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed the independence of Việt Nam. But the French came back and reoccupied the city in 1946. After nine years of fighting between the French and Viet Minh forces, Hanoi became the capital of an independent North Vietnam in 1954.

It changed hands again in 1954, when it was ceded to Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh after almost a decade of fighting, and it became the capital of North Vietnam; upon reunification in 1975, it assumed that title for the entire country.

October 2010 will officially mark 1000 years of the establishment of the Hanoi city. It has been named as one of the world's "Top Destinations in 2010"

Note: To learn Vietnamese culture, we need to know Chinese culture and language, Vietnam cannot erase the history of cultural interaction with China, the history of more than 2,000 years influences. To deny Chinese influences, Vietnam is only a new country with 200 years French influences, and its history will be less colorful. I hope Vietnam will not make a mistake of erasing their past for the sake of national identity. When I visited some ancient site, there are sign of replacing Chinese characters with Vietnamese alphabets on the historical relic, this destroyed the actual historical heritage. The old quarter and Hanoi reflected highly the Chinese influence in their daily living, not only the architecture but their living culture.

24-11-2009 Hanoi, Vietnam
Arrive at Hanoi

The weather was sunny when looked from the plane, the view from the sky was beautiful, just like a Chinese water colour painting. The hills and its terrain and the cloud make a beautiful picture of the Hanoi. I think I am going to like this place.

The weather when arrived at the airport was not as sunny as we see from the plane. It is a big dusty. No sunshine but cloudy. The temperature however is fine, not as cold as what had reported by weather forecast.

We have a wonderful welcome breakfast from the hotel, Phoenix hotel. The friendly manager, Mr Kelvin and his staff. Nice breakfast for a hungry guest...

The Hotel
Hanoi Phoenix Hotel, No. 43 Bat Su Street (Hoan Kiem district), ☎ +84 4 9232683 (, fax: +84 4 9263745). Situated in the heart of Hanoi's Old Quarter. The 30 rooms offer hot water, private bathrooms, and fan or air conditioning. There is also a fridge, satellite TV, telephone access, internet access free of charge in the rooms and the lobby. At least some of the rooms even have a desktop computer! Prices start at USD 11, plus breakfast. They can also arrange for tour to Halong Bay and Sapa. The only complaint is that there is no lift for 4 storey hotel.

The Old Quarter

Normally Hanoi is divided into 3 areas: (1)Old quarter area which remains from the previous century; (2)Area which was built at the beginning of 20th century and (3) new area which started after ending the French domination in 1954. The Old Quarter Streets area or often called “36 streets and guilds” located right at the centre of Hanoi( central Hoan Kiem District ) and the Red River bank, it is also near Hoan Kiem lake. The Old Quarter is in an area of around 100 hectares, includes about 4,000 houses.

Hanoi's Old Quarter has a history that spans 2,000 years and represents the eternal soul of the city. Located between the Lake of the Restored Sword(Hoan Kiem lake), the Long Bien Bridge, a former city rampart, and a citadel wall, the Old Quarter started as a snake and alligator-infested swamp. It later evolved into a cluster of villages made up of houses on stilts, and was unified by Chinese administrators who built ramparts around their headquarters. The area was named "Dominated Annam" or "Protected South" by the Chinese.
The ideal location was very favorable for trading activities. Therefore since 15th Century, people from many villages in the Red River delta came here and built trading section inside this area. People who sold the same products gathered in o­ne place and established their own merchant guild. During 15th century, 36 guilds were established in the city. The Old Quarter is second only to Hoi An for uninterrupted stretches of colonial and pre-colonial architecture, well-preserved on dense warrens of narrow, wonderfully atmospheric streets. The Old Quarter, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. Most of the streets in the Old Quarter area were crowded and busy trading places.

The Old Quarter began to acquire its reputation as a crafts area when the Vietnamese attained independence in the 11th century and King Ly Thai To built his palace there. In the early 13th century, the collection of tiny workshop villages which clustered around the palace walls evolved into craft cooperatives, or guilds. Skilled craftsmen migrated to the Quarter, and artisan guilds were formed by craftsmen originating from the same village and performing similar services. Members of the guilds worked and lived together, creating a cooperative system for transporting merchandise to the designated streets in the business quarter.

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Because inhabitants of each street came from the same village, streets developed a homogeneous look. Homes evolved out of market stalls, before streets were formed. Because storekeepers were taxed according to the width of their storefront, storage and living space moved to the rear of the buildings. The houses in the old quarter are generally long and narrow since the streets usually come with the shops at the front and the living areas at the back. Consequently, the long and narrow buildings were called "tube houses". Typical measurements for such houses are 3 meters wide by 60 meters long. There is a narrow alley from the frontage that lead to the living quarters at the back of the shops. The alley is dark and open only to the private resident living there. Behind the shops are the actual Hanoi community.

At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names still reflect these specializations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original commerce. The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops. Local cuisine specialties as well as several clubs and bars can be found here also. A night market (near Đồng Xuân market) in the heart of the district opens for business every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening with a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.

We walk around the old town for a little while, before we met the 3 young university students from Hanoikids. The three wonderful people took us around the old city. When you come to Hanoi, just travel light you can get anything here, especially within the old city.

By walking aimlessly in the old city is a thrill itself, learn how to walk in the chaotic street with many bikes moving over you, is a wonderful experience. After a few try, I just boldly walk across the street like the local.

By walking the street, I learn some Vietnamese words, A majority of the street names in the Old Quarter start with the word "Hang". Hang means merchandise or shop, it is actually Chinese word. The guild streets were named for their product, service or location. The old section of Hanoi is often called the "36 Old Streets," there are more than 36 actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number 36 came from the 15th century when there might have been 36 guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the 36 to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Chinese represents the meaning of longer time or forever, the concept of "plenty". Nine times the four directions makes 36, which simply means "many" for a long time. This is good wording for business as it means profit for a long time, a path to good life. There are now more than 70 streets in the area.

Below is some names of the streets of the old quarter, Hanoi.

Street Name: Description:

1 – Bat Dan - Wooden Bowls
2 – Bat Su - China Bowls
3 – Cha Ca - Roasted Fish
4 – Chan Cam - String Instruments
5 – Cho Gao - Rice Market
6 – Gia Ngu - Fishermen
7 – Hai Tuong - Sandals
8 – Hang Bac - Silversmiths. Bac means silver, and appropriately, this street started as a silver ingot factory under the reign of Le Thanh Tong (1469-1497). Village people, called the "Trau Khe silver casters," were brought into the capital to cast silver bars and coins. After a ceremony to transfer their craft from their village of Trau Khe to Hanoi, they set up two temples to honor the founders of their craft. At one communal house, the silver was molten and poured into molds. At the other communal house, the molds were further processed for delivery to the Prime Minister. The crafters went to great lengths to keep their methods secret to avoid counterfeit products.
9 – Hang Be - Rafts. In the mid-19th century, the guild of bamboo raft makers was located on this street outside the My Loc gate, one of the many sturdy gates to the city. The cai mang raft consisted of 12 to 15 large bamboo poles lashed together by strips of green bamboo bark. Their anterior was slightly raised by heating the wood, and the aft was rigged with three quadrangular sails made of coarse linen dyed with extracts of sweet potato skins.
10 -Hang Bo - Basket
11 -Hang Bong - Cotton
12 -Hang Buom - Sails
13 -Hang But - Brushes
14 -Hang Ca - Fish
15 -Hang Can - Scales
16 -Hang Chai - Bottles
17 -Hang Chi - Threads
18 -Hang Chieu - Mats
19 -Hang Chinh - Jars
20 -Hang Cot - Bamboo Latices
21 -Hang Da - Leather
22 -Hang Dao - (Silk) Dyer. This street is one of Vietnam's oldest streets. It serves as a main axis running from north to south, cutting the Old Quarter in half. In the French Colonial time, Hang Dao Street was a center for the trading of silk products. Hang Dao (Pink) Street sold fabric, silk and also dye cloth but o­nly dye bright color such as red, yellow, pink etc. therefore it has the name of Hang Dao (Pink) Street.
23 -Hang Dau - Beans
24 -Hang Dau - Oils
25 -Hang Dieu - Pipes
26 -Hang Dong - Copper
27 -Hang Duong - Sugar
28 -Hang Ga - Chicken
29 -Hang Gai - Hemp. Han Gai Street offers silk clothing ready-made and tailored, embroidery, and silver products
30 -Hang Giay - Paper
31 -Hang Giay - Shoes
32 -Hang Hanh - Onions
33 -Hang Hom - Cases
34 -Hang Huong - Incense
35 -Hang Khay - Trays
36 -Hang Khoai - Sweet Potatoes
37 -Hang Luoc - Comb
38 -Hang Ma - Votive papers. Hang Ma sold sacred joss (paper replicas of money, clothing, even stereo sets) to burn for the dead. Ma is burned in front of the altar of ancestors accompanied by prayers. It also sold shiny paper products, such as gift wrappings, wedding decorations and miniature paper objects to burn for the dead.
39 -Hang Mam - Pickled Fish. Hang Mam is the union of two old streets: an eastern offshoot called Hang Trung and the original Hang Mam. The name is derived from the various kinds of mam, or fish sauces, that are produced and sold here, as well as other sea products. The street was originally on the riverside, close to the day's catch.street of rattan products
40 -Hang Manh - Bamboo-screens
41 -Hang Muoi - Salt
42 -Hang Ngang - Transversal Street. Connect to Hang Dao is Hang Ngang Street. This street used to dye bluish color such a blue, green, indigo blue etc. so Hang Ngang Street used to be call Hang Lam (turquoise) Street.
43 -Hang Non - Hats
44 -Hang Phen - Alum
45 -Hang Quat - Fans. The street that formerly sold silk and feather fans, now stuns the visitor by its brilliantly colored funeral and festival flags and religious objects and clothing.
46 -Hang Ruoi - Clam Worms
47 -Hang Than - Charcoal
48 -Hang Thiec - Tin, the street of tinsmith
49 -Hang Thung - Barrel, the street of barrels
50 -Hang Tre - Bamboo
51 -Hang Trong - Drum
52 -Hang Vai - Cloth
53 -Lo Ren - Blacksmiths
54 -Lo Su - Coffins
55 -Ma May - Rattan
56 -Ngo Gach - Bricks
57 -Thuoc Bac - Herbal Medicine
58. Dong Xuan Street / Market Street
59. Cau Go Street - Meaning "Wooden Bridge," Cau Go Street is located one block north of the Lake of the Restored Sword, and was in fact the location of a wooden bridge
60. To Thinh Street - connects the above two and is still the wood turner's street.
61. Lan Ong Street - is a sensual delight of textures and smells emanating from the sacks of herbal medicinal products: leaves, roots, barks, and powders.
62. Nha Hoa (Fire-station). In 19 century, all houses in Hanoi were made by flammable material so when fire happened, it burnt down thousand of houses. People set a temple to worship Fire genie to protect people from fire. Later o­n, the area o­n which the temple located called Nha Hoa (Fire-station) street.
63. Tran Hung Dao street used to be called “Nha Diem” (Match) Street as there was an match factory producing match for the whole Indochina area.
64. Hang Chuoi - Banana Street. Hang Chuoi Street used to be a wasteland, o­nly planted banana for elephants of the court soldiers in the old time. When French colonial opened the street, the name was taken after this plant.

Talking about Old Quarter, I remember the Hudong of Beijing, China, some had been demolished for urban development. If the Hudong in Beijing is preserved like Old Quarter of Hanoi, Beijing will definably retain the living heritage of commoners from its ancient history, like Hanoi. Urban development can always take place outside the historical sites. Beijing followed the mistake of Singapore, the actual building is demolished. But I am sad for Georgetown(the new UNESCO listing) in Penang, the old town is gradually losing its living heritage, when residents are moving out to other places ...I hope Hanoi will not follow the footsteps of Beijing(where the building is demolished) and Penang(where the people is moving out), they are both the soul of the city, both people and building are equally important. I hope the Old Quarter of Hanoi will remain for a long time, both the buildings and people, to reflect the soul of Hanoi.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the centre of Hanoi, with the streets of the old town in the background (1999) Tháp Bút (Pen Tower) with a phrase "Tả thanh thiên" [it means "Write on the sky"] next to Hoàn Kiếm Lake (2007)

Hoan Kiem Lake is a pleasant park in the center of town, within easy walking distance from anywhere in the Old Quarter. It's the 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, who grabbed the sword and carried it down to its depths, returning it to the gods from whom it had come. Rumor has it the giant turtles still inhabit the lake. When we are in the Hoan Kiem Lane, we see the giant turtle surfaced from the lake, the locals said it is rare to see the turtle surfaced, some have never seen it in their lives.

I walk around the lake with the Honoikids. I am thankful to the three young people for taking us around. They have tried their best to show us the places while taking us around. They even proposed changes when they knew that the ladies like to go shopping. They took the ladies to Dong Xuan Market or Cong Dong Xuan, located at Hang Khoai Street(street for sweet potatoes) with the main entrance from the street. The market is actually located within the square of Hang Khoai, Dong Xuan Street, Cau Dong and Nguyen Thien Thuat. Along Cau Dong street it is a busy commercial place, which lead to an alley at the back of the market. The alley is lining with food hawkers of various types. Before they leave us, we have dinner together near the wholesale market,at the corner of Cau Dong and Nguyen Thien Thuat. We took some beef noddle with the familiar herbs and tofu, some more adventure one are trying the snail meat from paddy field. The beef noodle is delicious with the chilly and herb leaves.

Hanoikids, keep it up... we sorry we have make problem for you, on our unexpected demand. Your are friendly lots.

The ladies busy shopping, and I just enjoy looking at the Hanoi people moving around. It is very relaxing, within the French old architecture building , noisy sound, aimless walking, just enjoy it. It is Hanoi.....

Night we watch the Water Puppet Show, just bring along your child character, and watch it like an adult with your memory of your childhood. When is the last time your see the puppet show? and this puppet show is unique, it is water puppet show. Very cultural experience with the traditional music and song. Just enjoy the night with it.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (57 Dinh Tien Hoang St., across the street from the shores of the Hoan Kiem Lake; tel. +84-4-824-9494, fax +84.4.824-5117). A visit to the water puppet theater is a real highlight of a trip to Hanoi. Live musicians accompany folk legends from Vietnamese history, told with wooden men, women and dragons, dancing and splashing on the face of the water. The narratives are sung in Vietnamese, but a list of titles is available in several languages. Tickets are 40,000 and 60,000 dong. There are several performances throughout the day, but it's virtually impossible to buy tickets for the same day, and most performances for the following day will be sold out as well. Camera passes are an extra 15,000 dong, but whether you buy one or not is purely on the honor system. Don't worry about getting wet, but the seats are very small, and visitors with above-average height will have to squirm a bit. (source: wikitravel)

After the show, just strolling in the street . With the beautifully weather the local young people just come out with their bikes, it is as busy as the day time. Hanoi people come out at night , not to work but to relax and enjoy the night. Hanoi life is a balanced life, time to work time to relax.

Good sleep in the hotel.

Latest Updates 1-12-2009: resettlement program of Old Quarter.

Thousands of local households in Hanoi’s historical landmark Old Quarter will be relocated to the city’s Long Bien and Gia Lam Districts, according to the city’s chairman.

The move is aimed at improving their living standards, Hanoi’s People’s Committee chairman Nguyen The Thao told Vietnam News Agency on the sidelines of the 6th session of the 12th National Assembly about the capital city’s plans last week.

He said that the Viet Hung and Sai Dong urban areas which lie across the Red River would be their new homes.

Local authorities have proposed to relocate 30,000 people outside of the area by 2020 to reduce the population density to 50,000 people per square kilometer from the current 84,000 people per square kilometer.

The first phase of the project, which will cost around VND4 trillion (US$223.21 million), was submitted to the city’s Planning and Investment Department and will be later submitted to the municipal People’s Committee for approval.

About 1,900 households are expected to be resettled in the Viet Hung Urban Zone during the initial phase of the project.


Are we going to say goodbye to the Old Quarter of Hanoi, will the old quarter meet the same fate as Hudong of Beijing, and old colonial shophouses of Georgetown,Penang of Malaysia. Will urban renewal destroy the old quarter? Let us look back at Singapore on their Urban Renewal when many colonial shophouses were demolished, we lost a value living heritage....did we learn from past mistakes? When Rent Control Act was abolished in Penang, there was a large flow of local population out form the old town, Penang old town lost its most important asset of the town, its people....the people of old quarter of Hanoi, like its old buildings is the soul of Hanoi, I hope the city government will be careful not to destroy the germ of Hanoi. Otherwise Hanoi will lost its best and most value tourism asset.......

The first impression of tourism industry, Vietnam need law to protect tourist interest. More disclosure in tour contracts, more English, and ethic & standard practices for tour operators......

25-11-2009 Halong Bay, Vietnam
Hanoi to Halong Bay

Today, I am going to Halong Bay. Will be there for 2 days 1 night, staying a night in a Chinese junk.

Arrive at Halong town and take a boat to the Chinese junk, which took us to the Halong Bay.

Halong Bay is having 3,000 islands.... will continue

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