The heart of Hanoi

imageSomehow this picture just sums up the day. Joyous and fun filled, carefree. We have had an amazing day touring Hanoi, seeing so many aspects of this fascinating city.

We began at the Taoist temple of Quan Thanh, built in the 11th century. Vietnam tolerates all religions as well as those who have none. We were to see Buddhist, Confuscian and Christian places of worship all co-existing in peace and harmony.

Next was a memorial to Senator John McCain, shot down in Hanoi at the beginning of the Vietnam War and imprisoned in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. We touched on the war with our guide many times today and I am sure it will be a recurring theme during our trip.

imageThe Tran Quac pagoda is a Buddhist temple complex with an amazing central altar which recedes with row upon row of gilded Buddhas. The eleven story pagoda is rebuilt after damage by American bombing but many of the marble statues were preserved.

By co-incidence, today some of Hanoi’s students were graduating and had come, as we did, to the Temple of Literature, the city’s oldest University, to celebrate and have their pictures taken. As well as the five courtyards, there are 82 tortoise shaped stelae, celebrating the 82 of over 3000 students who passed the ancient examination system! The temple is dedicated to Confuscius and there is a huge drum which used to call students to class. There is also a shrine dedicated to the founder of the University.

Next we went to the Museum of Fine Arts. Exhibits ranged from early history through to contemporary works. Although  there is obviously an Eastern theme to the art works, I was struck by similarities in styles to the Western traditions more familiar to me. I could see resemblances, among others, to Impressionist, Cubist and even Scottish Colourist works. The pictures show works relevant to Vietnam, including some representing ‘Uncle Ho’.

We ended our day at the main market where traders sold all manner of goods wholesale. It was like the Barras on steroids and in the heat. And it’s only mid afternoon! Time for a drink and a chill before venturing out again!

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