Perched on a tiny islet ( Jade Island) in the lake not far from the tower, is the Ngoc son temple . It dedicated to Confucian and Taoist philosophers and the national hero, Trần Hưng Đạo. The temple came under comprehensive repair in 1865 by Nguyen Van Sieu, an eminent scholar of the old Thang Long Capital. Other projects were also newly built or upgraded that created a new complex of relics with a harmonious architecture. These include Ngoc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, But Thap (Pen Tower) and Dai Nghien (Ink Slab).
The temple is reached fro the shore via the brightly painted, red arched bridge, known as the Sunbeam Bridge ( The Huc). The temple entrance, called Dac Nguyet Lau (Moon Viewing Tower), has a beautiful design with its ancient features kept intact. The Pen Tower was built with stones and its peak was built in the shape of a brush. On its front side it is inscribed with three words “Ta Thanh Thien” (writing on the sky). The Ink Slab, also built with stones, is held up by three frogs. the Pen Tower and the Ink Slab have become sacred symbols relating to the national literature and university examinations to discover talented people. Students often visit this site to pray for good luck in their studies.
The Temple has three main sections: the external one is the bái đường (kowtowing place), the central section is Văn Xương (for worshipping) and the end section is dedicated to Trần Hưng Đạo (A figure of almost legendary proportions in Vietnamese history, a brilliant military strategist who defeated two Mongol invasions and became a cultural hero among modern Vietnamese).
Hanoi, being the capitol of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is bedecked with scultptures from the school of socialist realism. For those, like me, who missed the heyday of communism in Europe, this is a chance to get a feel for what it might have been like in the Soviet Union. Of course, government by the Communist Party is not something of the past in Vietnam -- it's still a one party state -- but the dogmatic ideology and economic policies is long gone.
You'll know socialist realism when you see it. It's characterized by brawny heroic workers posing resolutely in groups not often found together in nature (soldiers, farmers and machinists, for example). The medium is often granite or concrete, and its key message is strength.
Favorite thing: If you've been around Asian cities enough, you've come to expect mostly drab, modern concrete structures without style. That is DEFINITELY not Hanoi! the homes in Hanoi are the most architecturally remarkable in all of Asia, in my opinion (not that I've seen all of the cities in the continent). Colorfully painted and an interesting combination of Vietnamese and French designs, you will definitely enjoy looking at homes as you drive through the city.
When driving around or strolling around in Hanoi, you would not fail to see some amazingly interesting buildings. Many are narrow, and quite a few are quite tall. The reason for this is that similar to in Thailand, the building owners are taxed based on the measurement of the front of their house. Therefore in a bid to reduce taxes, the house owners tended to build houses that have very narrow fronts, but to have sufficient space for the whole family, they built upwards.
In Thailand, it is slightly different. The houses there tend to be narrow and really long, but are seldom very tall.
Of bright colours and Facades that are painted
Another great feature of the houses here are the colours. Probably due to the influence of their previous French colonial masters, the houses here sport bright yellow, brilliant blue and even green facades. However, due to the poverty of city dwellers, only the front of the houses are painted, and the exterior side walls are left in the original and natural colour-which is grey or off-white.
If you take a look at the buildings, you will see that many have nice terraces and balconies with ornamental balustrades and windows with wooden shutters-which gives the place a very European feel and charm, of course, it is with a Vietnamese twist. :- )
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Fellow travellers: Can you afford to miss Vietnam? It is changing rapidly, so visit it while it is still unique and affordable.
The temples of Vietnam are traditionally constructed entirely of wood and assembled without nails or screws. Roof trusses are held in place by a complex lattice of stiles and rails.
One of the best examples of traditional Temple architecture is the Temple of Literature.
Favorite thing: The Vietnamese government gives families small lots to build their homes on. Vietnamese families are large and multiple generations live together. The only way for entire families to fit under one roof is to build tall homes. The building in the picture is very representative of the types of newer homes you’ll see in Hanoi.
All the area around Hoam Kiem Lake is nkown as "Old Quarter" and is a charming noisy narrow alleys laberynth in which you can easily get lost....
In fact, the best way to know the place is to get lost in it!! When U R completely lost, U just hail a motorbike and tell him to take you to your hotel or so (less than 1 USD). The Lonely Planet guide has a "Walking Tour" itinerary by the old quarter, but I tried to follow it and got lost, LOL
You will find many old shops, souvenirs, restaurants... here.