National Geographic : 2004 May
"Quan Thanh Temple " Presidential Palace Peagod Ho ChiMinh Mausoleum Al One Pillar', Pagoda HA DONG DA KHAMTHIENSTREET 0mi 1/2 0km 1/2 BASEMAPBYVIDAGISHANOI NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC MAPS : ^ 01 TADEL Central MarktgMarket Tower Old Quarter y Muse Temple s Q HoaLo KfHo Prison Post Oe Metropole Railway * Hotel Station S.t' . "Hanoi cultural HOAN KIEM Opera Cultural House Palace HAl BA TRUNG M 1.- U.S. bombs leveled Hanoi's bridges dur ing the Vietnam War -known here as the American War. The rest of the city sus tained less damage. Now home to about three million people, Hanoi remains more a collection of villages than a metropolis, a quiet city with a poetic soul. sandals. They jostled for passage with motor scooters lugging live pigs, caged dogs headed for the butcher, ceramics made in the country side, cartons of TVs, bags of sneakers. Everyone seemed in a frantic rush. Sometimes a mattress - a relatively new amenity for Hanoians-went by. I wondered what would happen to the work ethic of these industrious people when they dis covered a thread-thin mat spread on the floor was lousy for sleeping and a big, fat mattress made it tough to get up with the dawn. On Ly Thai To Street, I turned onto the side walk and leaned my bike against the wrought iron fence outside Au Lac Caf6. The cafe occu pied the patio of a grand old villa where the wartime mayor of Hanoi had lived. From the table I had staked out as my unofficial morn ing office, I could look across the street and see elderly women doing their slow-motion tai chi exercises in a nearby park and a queue of "cyclos"-bicycle-taxis that pull two-person car riages (the modern-day version of the rickshaw) -and a low, tile-roofed skyline filled with the ambience of colonial times. Hanoi reminded me of no othercity. But by the time my first summer arrived, bring ing with it breathless heat and humidity that opened every pore, Hanoi felt as much like home as any place I'd lived since childhood. Although it is a big city, with a population of about three million people, its soul is that of a village. Neigh borhoods are clustered among meandering alleyways. Spirits of departed ancestors drift through Buddhist pagodas. Rice fields reach to the city's doorstep. In the Old Quarter dozens of narrow lanes are still named for the crafts and businesses that entire villages migrated to Hanoi to practice-Coffin Street, Silk Street, Cotton Street, Grilled Fish Street, Gold Street and the shops and homes and cafes are packed so tightly that the place seemed like an over stuffed closet. Every morning, bicycling to work through Ba Dinh Square, I was reminded how deeply the history of struggle is ingrained in Hanoi's char acter. For more than a thousand years Vietnam resisted Chinese domination. Then the French came. An expeditionary force sacked Hanoi's citadel in 1873, and before long France's Indo china empire-modern-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia-was being run from Hanoi. HANOI 87 - GIANG VO ST.