Hanoi in its shades of grey

6 01 2012

Hanoi, which I visited this winter, is city that has made a big impression on me. It is a city that for a long while, I had wanted to visit. It is a city that has intrigued me in the past, having lived a good part of my younger days in a region whose political climate had very much been influenced by the Cold War, the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Hanoi, along with the rest of Vietnam, is today a very different world from the one that must have emerged from a war that would have devasted it. The city does still have many reminders of the war, as well as of the somewhat chequered history the nation it is a capital to has had. There is always that reminder of the Communist Party that still governs it in flags, banners, posters and also Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum making it difficult not to realise that, even as the country has embraced economic policies that would have those who led it during the war turning in their final resting places.

Two ladies pose in the traditional Ao Dai at the Temple of Literature. Hanoi is where tradition ...

... coexists and blends in with the new world.

An itinerant vendor stares into a shop window.

The charge of the two-wheel brigade on the streets of old Hanoi.

Two wheels that sometimes see well dressed riders dressed fashionably with killer heels.

The juxtaposition of new on the old is evident especially on the streets of the Old Quarter.

More juxtapositions ...

The is a lot of the old that is not just juxtaposed with, but blends very much in with the new that the country’s economic progress over the last two decades has brought. The Hanoi of old, set in the colourful narrow and bustling streets of the Old Quarter, sits beside the Hanoi of the French Colonial masters – its wide avenues and elegant buildings in stark contrast. In both, there are the sidewalks dominated by itinerant vendors or the low tables and stoold set up by vendors operating out of narrow doorways, in instances right next to a shop window with a display of the latest objects of desire. It is at the low tables and stools of the sidewalks where in fact the best fare in a city that celebrates its food can sometimes be savoured. Here well dressed men and women are often spotted sitting on the low stools in what almost seems a posture that lacks dignity, enjoying their night out in the city, or a bowl of pho in the morning before heading into the office. It is in scenes such as this that best illustrates Hanoi as a city that is full of contrasts and perhaps contradictions where it isn’t just where black is seen against white, but where there also are many shades of grey.

Two wheelers prove to be useful in many ways ...

... and many can't leave home with it.

Diners at Chả cá Lã Vọng - a well known restaurant that serves Chả cá - a must try "Grilled Fish" dish.

A pho restaurant spills out into the sidewalk in the Old Quarter.

Sidewalks are the domain of the many itinerant vendors.

Views of more sidewalks.

A young lady having a bowl of pho for breakfast on the sidewalk before heading into the office.

A back lane.

The sidewalks are where many locals are seen enjoying their night out.

Some of the best food can be savoured at the low tables and stools of the sidewalks.

A food vendor operating out of a doorway.

A sidewalk food vendor.

Evening falls on Hoan Kiem Lake - looking at Turtle Tower.




One response

11 01 2012

nice shots! and love the new and old of Hanoi 🙂 seems like a nicer place than hcmc. must go see for myself

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