badge

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Never Ending Dream




A local tending the flower bed at Hoan Kiem Lake
After having braved the traffic and the crazy roads in Gurgaon, Bangalore, Mumbai and a few more metros besides the small towns where the traffic woes never seem to end, I was in for a surprise to see even more crazy traffic though less hazardous! Any guesses… Bangkok,.... Shanghai… no! It was Hanoi!! It may sound  an exaggeration but it is seen to be believed. My road crossing skills developed over time in India helped me greatly and even some of the travel guides suggest that crossing the road in Hanoi is an art! Do not look at either side of the road once you have taken the first step to cross the road, except be cautious not to head into an incoming bus or a car and keep looking straight till you cross the road! All the incoming swarm of motorbikes, scooters and mopeds will veer around you till you have made it to the other side!

My recent trip to Vietnam for a short vacation was a bonanza that I could never have imagined before I landed on this once war torn land that had seen incessant war with United States till 1974. Now the ravages of the war have been forgotten and in its place stand a modern country surging ahead by keeping its unique culture and identity intact. There was a nip in the air with constant shield of clouds and cold breeze that kept blowing to keep the day temperatures in the range of 14-19deg C!
Mosaic Ceramic Wall at Hanoi


Old Quarters in Hanoi which is almost 30 km away from the newly constructed Noi Bai International Airport is a perfect place to start. The taxis are available in plenty and the visas are available on arrival but an E visa has to be secured beforehand. An hour long ride through the city traffic gives a feel of what lies ahead in the vibrant city. The most unusual sights not to be missed while driving through the crazy traffic is the Long Bien bridge which is more than a hundred years old and at one time was the longest cantilever bridge in Asia( 2.4 km long) across the Red river! It has withstood the ravages of the war despite several attempts to bomb it during the war with US.  Another unusual sight on the drive to the city is a 4km long wall of Ceramic murals that was completed in 2010 portraying the various aspects of life like the culture, paintings by children, and modern art. This finds a place in the Guinness Book of world records as the longest Ceramic Mosaic wall in the world!
Tai Chi Session in morning
Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the midst of the Old Quarter and has an Old Pagoda and the entire market place surrounds it! A walk around the lake makes an impression on the tourists of the love of locals to maintain the gardens and cleanliness. There are abundant eats and touch of the local culture that can be flavored here. During my entire stay I did not miss a walk around the lake in the wee hours of the morning, where literally hundreds of young men, women and children can be seen engaged in Tai Chi, yoga, brisk walks and a few joggers! They sway to the music in the morning when most lazy bones are still dreaming in the beds and in the evenings the pairs can be seen dancing / salsa and tapping their feet to the lilting music! It gives a feeling of never ending carnival as the multi -hued neon lights reflect the beauty of the city from the shimmering water of the lake.
Flower Clock at Hoan Kiem Lake

The markets around the lake are the nerve center of the city with each market stuffed to the capacity with wares like silk, china, porcelain, embroidery, shoes, clothes and every possible thing one can imagine. The lingering aroma of local food, skewers with exotic meats, on every street cannot be missed!

I managed to eat some of the finest noodles, and rice –spring rolls having a crust thinner than paper with stuffing of vegetables! The Highlands and coffee made from egg have made this place immortal and Vietnamese coffee can leave you asking for more!

Most of the locals especially the younger generation understand English but it is a challenge when dealing with middle aged people to break the ice!
Halong Bay

We made a day trip to Halong Bay which is 170 km away from Hanoi well connected by road and it is no surprise that unsurpassed beauty of 1200 odd small islets in the midst of Indo China Sea make this place in the enviable list of UNESCO Heritage sites. According to a legend when invaders long ago wanted to attack Vietnam, the gods sent dragons to defend them. The dragons started spitting out jewels and jade. Under a spell of magic the jewels turned into rocky islets obstructing the passage of invading ships. After winning the battle the dragons decided to stay back for peaceful life on earth. One can go Kayaking around and also visit the fishing villages on bamboo raft! The Dong Thien Cung stalagmite caves lit with multi colored lights leaves one spell bound! The nature has crafted wonders beyond imagination besides the alluring landscape all around.
Dong Thien Cung Cave at Halong Bay
Onward and return journey to Halong Bay is punctuated by a brief stopover at Hai Duong where one can see beautifully crafted pottery and statues besides a lot of local products on sale.
Ceramic Pottery at Hai Duong village


Besides these there are several attractions like Water Puppet Show, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Opera House, Pottery and Silk villages, St Joseph Cathedral and small alleyways in Hanoi worth exploring! With loads of memories of this lovely destination we boarded the flight for return.

PS- All pictures were clicked during the visit

18 comments:

  1. Hanoi looks like a wonderful place. Love the Dong Thien Cung Cave at Halong Bay and the Ceramic Pottery. The Flower Clock at Hoan Kiem Lake is a breathtaking scene. My road crossing skills are super, all thanks to the traffic in Bangalore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lovely place to take a break, Rachna! For Indians crossing road is easy anywhere:)

      Delete
  2. Hey Rahul, I can't believe I was the first one to comment. And thanks for sharing this wonderful post. I sometimes wonder whether I will ever be able to visit these places?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks fo being he first! My best wishes for all places you dream to visit:)

      Delete
  3. That was a fantastic trip Rahul,even i enjoyed it a lot.
    But that art of road-crossing--if i practice it here i will end up as a mashed potato

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am happy you enjoyed the details of Ha noi! Road crossing is a skill though nothing to be proud about!

      Delete
  4. My husband often goes to Hanoi on business trips...this post would make a great reference in case he gets time for sightseeing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had hopped from Singapore so you too can make it any time:) thanks for that comment and I can promise your husband would not regret!

      Delete
  5. It looks like the travel to the city is beautiful, bridge and the ceramic mural wall must be a sight. I would love to go to the bay. Beautiful clicks, Sir.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hanoi has really captivating sights Saru and is well worth a visit!

      Delete
  6. It was a treat to take us on a virtual tour of Hanoi.Fabulous visuals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A big thanks Rama for the kind comment!

      Delete
  7. Each country has its USP.
    In India,we seem to be realising our potential.I am sure,even Hanoi has its pluses.
    Thanks for sharing lovely pictures and info

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree with you Mr Chowla! Am happy you liked the post!

      Delete
  8. Hanoi sounds so tempting. Ans yes, this post will be bookmarked for the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Purba that you liked the post! The place is well worth a visit!

      Delete
  9. Vietnam looks wonderful! Nice shots.

    ReplyDelete