Friday, February 27, 2009

Hanoi, Vietnam

I began my Vietnam trip in the capitol city, Hanoi. Hanoi has beautiful architecture (which was quite a relief after Korea's bland, concrete monotony) characterized by narrow, long houses--influences from when the French taxed residents based on the width of buildings. The city is also a traffic nightmare, since there are more motorbikes and bicycles than cars and the motorbikes do not stop for pedestrians--you simply look forward and walk at a slow, steady pace and trust that they'll drive around you. I found it best to cross with a local.

More evidence of Hanoi residents' insane apathy towards the risks that motorized transport entails. Yes, this rail track is active daily.

My first full day in Vietnam, I took off with a girl I met at my hostel (highly recommended if you're traveling to Hanoi) to explore the many museums and monuments in and around the city. Everything was beautiful, but crowded with tourists (and of course, the people trying to sell things to the tourists).

I visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the museum and sites around it. Then I went to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's oldest university which was very beautiful, and I found myself making comparisons between temple/palace sites in Korea and the same in Vietnam (Vietnam's always have water; Korea's art is more linear and clean, Vietnam's more intricate suggesting a more direct Hindu influence on its Buddhism). After lunch, I took in the Hoa Lo Prison (otherwise known as the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam war). The exhibits all focused on the French colonists' imprisonment (and torture) of Vietnam national activists under French rule. Finally, I ended my day at the Museum of Vietnam History, near Hoan Kiem Lake.

Me in front of the One Pillar Pagoda (notice how it's surrounded by water).

All of these things were interesting, and you should definitely check out my photos from the album linked at the bottom of this post, but nothing from my day compared to the evening. I had tickets to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.

Now, I am a former theater techie and have a huge thing for puppets and whatnot, so I was already really excited about seeing the water puppets in Vietnam. It's a unique art form to the northern half of the country, developed as a way to appease the gods and entertain villagers when the rice fields overflowed (which happens a lot in a country that is essentially at sea level). The program featured 17 songs, each with unique puppets and motions. It was difficult to get pictures because the puppets moved so quickly and naturally, but that didn't stop me from taking a lot!

The musicians concentrate as they play on traditional Vietnamese instruments.

An excerpt from the story of Hoan Kiem Lake (the legend of the restored sword)

The puppeteers take a bow. They used to get diseases from prolonged exposure to the dirty water, but nowadays they wear waders.

Finally, one of the excerpts I filmed, the "Dragon Dance":

I was completely mesmerized by the performance. I want to try it! Maybe next time.

Check out the rest of my pictures from the day's adventures. There are photos from most of the museums (though not of President Minh because cameras were not permitted inside the Mausoleum) and the lake as well as some random propaganda seen around town and other fun pictures:

Around Hanoi (museums, etc.)


  1. How close to the stage were you? I got there really late and was wayyyyy the heck in the back.

  2. I'm Vietnamese !!! I'm very happy bc U love Viet Nam ^^...see U next time in Ho Chi Minh City ^^

  3. I am visiting Hanoi nxt month..thank you for your info here...


  4. I am going to Vietnam in November.
    Googled and found some pictures including your post.
    I like to photograph, Pretty much excited about this upcoming trip and surely I will come back with overload memory card.




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