After breakfast we wanted to start off our city visit of Hanoi, which is now the capital of Vietnam with the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The area around modern Hanoi has been inhabited since at least 3000 BC. One of the first known permanent settlements is the Co Loa citadel founded around 200 BC. Through history, Hanoi was known by many names, all of which are of Chinese origin. During Chinese domination of Vietnam, it was known as Tong Binh and later Long Do Long Do. In 866, it was turned into a citadel and was named Dai La. In 1010, Ly Thai To, the first ruler of the Ly Dynasty, moved the capital of Dai Viet to the site of the Dai La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thang Long (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. Thang Long then became Dong Dô.
Anyone care for Silk Worms?
In 1408, Vietnam was invaded by Chinese troops from the Ming Dynasty and Dong Doô was renamed Dông Quan by the Chinese. In 1428, Vietnam was liberated from Chinese rule by Le Loi, the founder of the Le Dynasty and Dông Quan was renamed Dông Kinh. During the Tây Son Dynasty, it was named Bac Thanh. In 1802, when the Nguyen Dynasty was established and then moved the capital down to present-day Hue, it was renamed Thang Long (means "flying dragon"). In 1831 the Nguyen Dynasty renamed it Hà Nôi Hà, that 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.
Temple of Literature
The city was also occupied by the Japanese in 1940, and liberated in 1945, when it became the seat of Vietnam's government. From 1946 to 1954, it was the scene of heavy fighting between the French and Viet Minh forces. At that point, the city became the capital of an independent North Vietnam. During the Vietnam War Hanoi's transportation facilities were disrupted by the bombing of bridges and railways, which were, however, promptly repaired. Following the end of the war, Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976. In 2004, a massive part of the 900 year old citadel was discovered in central Hanoi, near the site of Ba Dinh square.
When we arrived at the mausoleum there was a 2 km line of visitors so we decided to skip this visit and head for the Temple of Literature.
On the way there we passed through Vietnamese traditional markets selling everything from rice to silk worms (to eat of course).
Temple of Literature: Touching the Bird for good luck
The Temple of Literature is a historic site situated in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was founded in 1070 as a Confucian temple. Only parts of the complex date back to the earliest period, although much of the architecture dates to the Ly (1010 to 1225) and Tran (1225 to 1400) Dynasties. In 1076 Vietnam's first university, National University, was established within the temple to educate Vietnam's mandarin class. The university functioned for more than 700 years, from 1076 to 1779. During that time 2,313 doctors graduated. In 1484 emperor Lê Thanh Tông started the tradition of carving the names of the laureates of the university on stone steles, which were placed on top of stone turtles.
Of the 116 steles corresponding to the examinations held between 1142 and 1778, only 82 remain.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
At the temple everyone would touch the turtle's head for good luck.... even a buddhist monk did it! There were dozens of ancient bonsai trees, some more than 300 years old.We then headed for the West Lake which in another “orphan” of the Red River, formed after the river shifted course and abandoned this vast body of water. The city’s oldest pagoda and one of its four guardian temples lie off either side of a short, leafy causeway that divides the larger expanse of West Lake from Truc Bach Lake, a smaller fragment partitioned by road-building locals.
At the West Lake we headed for the Tran Quoc Pagoda, founded in the sixth century during the reign of Ly Nam De.
Its axis extends from an 11-story octagonal tower through a sitting room to the main temple, which holds seven successively higher tiers of bodhisattvas and Buddhas. In the courtyard is a bodhi tree cut from the tree under which Sakyamuni received his enlightenment.
Hoan Kiem Lake
We then headed for the Old Quarter for lunch. We decided to eat at Tamarinds Café and then head for Vietnamstay agency to make the rest of our reservation payments. João and Leonor met us there after they had eaten at Kentucky Fried Chicken! They were the lucky ones. We strolled around carefully observing the Vietnamese way of life. They were always on the move: buying, selling and eating. Motorbikes were constantly passing buy, honking and polluting. Miguel and Susana even had to buy surgical masks because the Hanoi air was unbearable!
We continued our walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, a major scenic spot in the city which serves as a focal point for its public life.
According to the legend, Emperor Le Loi handed a magic sword which brought him victory in his revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty back to the Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) in the lake and hence gave it its present name. The Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) standing on a small island near the center of lake is linked to the legend.
A Bonsai tree at Hoan Kiem Lake
Near the northern shore of the lake lies Jade Island on which the Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) stands. The temple was erected in the 18th century. It honors the 13-century military leader Tran Hung Dao who distinguished himself in the fight against the Yuan Dynasty, Van Xuong, a scholar, and Nguyen Van Sieu, a Confucian master and famous writer in charge of repairs made to the temple in 1864. Jade Island is connected to the shore by the wooden red-painted Huc Bridge (The Huc, meaning Morning Sunlight Bridge).
Hoan Kiem Lake
We finished our stroll in the French Quarter next to the Opera House. For dinner, João, Leonor, Rute and I went out for pizza. Miguel and Dani went to eat Cha Ca La Vong, which is a traditional Vietnames dish of Fish. The rest of the group went out for some Italian food.
The next day was the toughest of our journey.