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Images of Hanoi


Welcome . This site is dedicated to the city of Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, and for us, the place that feels most like home. Please explore our site and give us your comments and suggestions by signing our guestbook before you go. Why not make your first stop our own "Images of Hanoi"?

Or, visit one the following sites for an introduction.

Photo: Maggie SteberPhoto: Maggie Steber

| Poetry | | Hanoi Streets | | Music | | Art | | Photo Essays/News | 

| Doi Moi | | Americans Revisit the War | | Viet Perspectives |
| Literature & Cinema | | Weather | | Work and Study in Hanoi |

The Spirit of Hanoi

Whether it is blossom time or not
Jasmine is always jasmine
Elegant or not
One is nevertheless a citizen of the capital
 Nguyen Cong Tru (1778-1858)
from a folksong

The soul of the Vietnamese people is well expressed through poetry, which until the 20th century constituted (in varied forms) the predominant literary tradition. For those interested, Huynh Sanh Thong has translated into English two large volumes of poetry as well as Vietnam's best known and loved literary work, Nguyen Du's "Truyen Kieu". Vietnam remains a primarily agrarian society, and the rural village, rather than Hanoi, figures most prominently in Vietnamese poetry in the classical tradition. But these poems, translated and published in the 70's in Hanoi, help capture some of the flavor of the old city. 

Contemporary Hanoi too, does continue to inspire:

The cradle of Vietnamese civilization lies in that middle-land between the Red River delta and the western mountains, the land of the Hung kings, and the land to which we will always return. This poem is for that special place. 
Street Image The French failed to remake Vietnam in their own colonial image, but they did leave behind baguettes, pate, some residual berets, and a great many people willing to fight and die to retain their independence. They also left behind a whole lot of those cool ocher colored buildings with funky green shutters that look so great on postcards...

Let's roam around Thang Long citadel,
36 guild streets there are in all:
Hang Bo, Hang Bac, Hang Gai,
Hang Buom, Hang Thiec, Hang Bai, Hang Khay,
Ma Vi, Hang Dieu, Hang Giay,
Hang Lo, Hang Cot, Hang May, Hang Dan,
Pho Moi, Phuc Kien, Hang Than,
Hang Ma, Hang Mam, Hang Noang, Hang Dong,
Hang Muoi, Hang Non, Cau Dong,
Hang Hom, Hang Dau, Hang Bong, Hang Be,
Hang Thung, Hang Bat, Hang Tre,
Hang Vo, Hang Giay, Hang The, Hang Ga,
Turn around and you are in Hang Da
A trip like that makes one feel wonderful!


...But, ironically, while colonial era buildings -- hotels, the opera house -- are deemed appropriate for preservation and investment, what will become of the maze of narrow streets which constitute Hanoi's old quarter, its "36 streets", is much less certain. How will its joyous chaos survive development pressures which demand more rational site planning and improved infrastructure? 

Em oi
Doi khong co em
Nhu pho
Khong co nuoc leo
Oh my beloved,
Life without you is like
Pho wihout its broth

Hanoi's streets are full of great food. Personal favorites: the bun oc on Mai Hac De Street (the specialty stall), and the cha ca at Cha Ca Thang Long (on Hang Ma Street). See if you like it better than original Cha Ca La Vong on Cha Ca Street  

Here our steps falter
Her eyes are like boats mirrored in the water
Here clouds and mountains extend forever
Poplars dry their golden hair in the sun...
Mist has covered the blue mountains
A brown sail rides the springtime waves
A wanderer listens to the birds' trills
A swallow glides in the clouds
Memories of love past...
 Images from "Ben Xuan"
by Van Cao-Pham Duy 

Ben Xuan image It was morning in Hanoi, our windows were open to let in the cool morning air, and I first stirred with the sounds of clanging pots and people scurrrying to prepare breakfast, but soon my attention was drawn to the distant sound of music, an old record, one of those romantic tunes from the 40's, western in its tonalities and rhythm but undeniably Vietnamese in its essence, it was a love song for Vietnam, one I didn't recognize and haven't heard since, but as I lay half asleep amid the sounds of Hanoi awakening, I thought it was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard. Still, we both really love Van Cao and Pham Duy's Ben Xuan.  
While Pham Duy left his beloved Hanoi in 1951, Pham Duy has continued to make wonderful music -- just give a listen to excerpts from his Me Viet Nam (Mother Vietnam) and his current work, Minh Hoa Kieu (Illustrations of Kieu), and enjoy Journey through the Motherland, his historic CD-ROM. 

Two years after writing the first incarnation of the beautiful "Ben Xuan", 21 year old Haiphong minstrel Van Cao wrote "Tien Quan Ca" (Advancing Army) and had it pubished in the clandestine Democratic Party journal. In early 1945 it become the unofficial anthem of young people in urban Tonkin, and on August 17 of that year it was played before a cheering crowd of 20,000 people gathered in the square in front of Hanoi's opera house to demonstrate suppport for Vietnamese independence. Days later, it became the national anthem of the newly declared Democratic Republic of Vietnam.   

Music from and about Hanoi continues to be a part of Vietnamese popular music. Please enjoy these songs, singers and stories of Hanoi. 

Painting GIFStarbucks' American espresso has not arrived yet in Hanoi. You can enjoy a great cup of coffee, however, at Nguyen Van Lam's cafe on Nguyen Huu Huan Street in the Old Quarter. No big Italian espresso machines or hip muzak, but quality Franco-Viet-drip surrounded by four decades of works from among the best known of Hanoi's artist community   

Hanoi can't be beat for photographic opportunities, as the following photoessays and collections demonstrate. Of course the photo squad at "Images of Hanoi" has snapped a few good ones in our travels around northern Vietnam,which we invite you to view too. For photography advice specific to Vietnam see Quang-Tuan Luong's website  


Poems of Old Hanoi | Qua Trung Du | Old Songs from Hanoi | Ben Xuan | Van Cao |
 Songs of Hanoi Today | Images: 1994-1998 | Images: 1883-1929 | Jean Desupjols



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