Cultural Tips, Hanoi
In temples as well as ancient Vietnamese literature, you will find Chinese characters.
Vietnamese langauage was original written using Chinese script called Chữ-nôm or Nôm until the 20th century.
In the 17th century, Roman Catholic missionaries introduced a Latin-based script called Quốc Ngữ (national language).
Today only Quốc Ngữ is used.
In Vietnam, the rural peasants produce a type of moonshine called Can that is made from fermented rice husks. But this isn't your typical moonshine. Can is only sold in 5 liter ceramic jars, and when you buy it the jar is filled with dry fermented rice husks, but no liquid. You have to fill the jar with water yourself and then let it sit for several hours or overnight. When you return to it, the water has transformed into a potent rice wine. You then take a very long, slender bamboo straw and stick it into the bottom of the jar and begin sucking out the potent brew.
This was definitely one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. And it is something that only the real country folk would drink, definitely not for the sophisticated city dwellers in Hanoi and definitely not something that is marketed for tourists.
Just ask a knowledgable local about it, and you will eventually find someone who can point you to a place where you can find some. Although will probably have to drink it in Vietnam, as I don't know how customs would react to someone bringing in a large jar of fermented rice husks.
While I was only in Hanoi for couple of days I was quick to note several tips:
* be firm with what you want to do - and where you want to go etc. I heard and read just one too many stories before my trip to Vietnam that drivers are just great at diverting your plans to say stay at Hotel ABC, and send you to some other Hotel XYZ for a small commission. Stories like the hotel is closed down, flooded etc cannot be taken seriously.
Do not every get PUSHED around to making decisions other than those you have planned for.
* avoid private taxis instead take taxis that you flagged down preferably Hanoi Taxi, CP taxi etc. The private touts usually have tempered meters.
* when shopping at the Old Quarters, you can always request the shop to deliver your goodies to your hotel....so you can keep strolling and rolling down the streets to buy even more!!! without having to lug your purchases everywhere!
* there are lots of pretty Vietnamese girls...even those girls riding on the motorbikes are fashionably clad, with highlights on their hair and even hving a straight perm etc!!! despite lagging behind most of the SEAsian countries, the people here are well presented, with good behaviours.
to be continued....
Four Saint temples protecting Thang Long- Hanoi" Thang Long tu tran”, the four famous sacred temples guarded 4 directions of Thang long Hanoi (the other three are Bach Ma (White Horse), Voi Phuc (Kneeling Elephant) and Kim Lien).
Quan Thanh temple guarded North Hanoi
Quan Thanh temple has another name Tran Vu Temple. It is a Taoism temple in Hanoi. Quan Thanh tempe was built in Ly Thai To King dynasty (1010 – 1028) to dedicate Mystical Natural Tran Vu. In Vietnamese legend, he helped Thuc Phan (King An Duong Vuong) get rid of the ghost plaguing the construction of Co Loa Citadel. He is credited with having helped Vietnamese people to drive away ghosts, evil spirits, and foreign invaders.
The main features of the temple are a large yard shaded by a giant banyan tree and a shrine that contains a famous bronze statue of Tran Vu built in 1677. The statue measures 3.96m in height, weighs around 3,600kg and depicts Tran Vu as a deity with his two symbolic animals, the serpent and the turtle.
Bach ma temple guarded East Hanoi
Walk around the Hanoi’s Old Quarter and visit the small Bach Ma Temple is said to be the oldest temple in Hanoi, though much of the current structure dates from the 18th century and a shrine to Confucius was added in 1839. It was originally built by King Ly Thai To in the 11th century to honor a white horse that guided him to this site, where he chose to construct his city walls.
In 1010 King Ly Thai To decided to move his capital from Hoa Lu to Thang long. But each time he tried to build a citadel on the new site, it collapsed. The King sent his staff to Long Do temple to pray to the supernatural powers for help in building his citadel. Suddenly, the saw a white horse racing from templeThe king ordered the citadel to be built on the path taken by the galloping horse. This time, the construction was successful. King Ly Thai to elevated Long Do to the position of tutelary deity of Hanoi. From that time onwards, the temple was known as White Horse
The temple has a wooden framework with big iron-wood columns. The rafters joining together to form a weight-bearing structure and an art-work abundant in decorative carvings. The incense-burning house has a carapace-shaped roof.
Voi Phuc temple (The kneeling Elephant temples) guarded West Hanoi
Behind Thu Le park in Thu Le village in the northwest of the city is the 11th century Temple Temple of the kneeling elephants. The temple was built on a high mound south of Thủ Lệ Zoo in what is now known as Ngọc Khánh Ward, Ba Đình District, and surrounded by gardens and many luxuriant ancient trees.
Voi Phục Temple is dedicated to Prince Hoằng Chân (Linh Lang Đại Vương), the fourth son of King Lý Thái Tông (1028–1054). who made great contributions to the glorious victory over the northern invaders. The simple lakeside temple houses statues of the Prince and his generals. In front of the temple are stone satues of kneeling elephants from which the temple derives its name.
Kim Lien Temple guarded South Hanoi
Kim Lien Temple guarded the South of Thang Long Citadel and honours the God of mountain (Thần Cao Sơn or Cao Sơn Đại vương). It was built in the 17th century and now is located in Phuong Lien Ward, Dong Da District, Hanoi. Kim LiênTemple entrance gate with the horizontal panel bearing three Chinese characters, meaning “The guardian temple to the south” The communal house is built in honor of Cao Sơn Đại Vương (Saint Cao Sơn), one of the fifty sons of Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ (ancestors of the Vietnamese nation).
Cao Sơn Temple is located on a high hill and consists of two separate parts: in front of the hill is the cổng trụ biểu (arched gate) with two lean-tos in the spacious grounds, and the main structure on the hill itself.
The entrance gate is a three compartment chamber with lively decorative details such as phoenixes keeping books in their mouths, clouds, a unicorn
Tet is the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam. It is the Vietnamese New Year marking the arrival of spring based on the Lunar calendar. It takes place from the first day of the first month of the Lunar calendar (around late January or early February) until at least the third day. Many Vietnamese prepare for Tet by cooking special holiday foods and cleaning the house. There are a lot of customs practiced during Tet, like visiting a person's house on the first day of the new year, ancestral worshipping, wishing New Year's greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people, and opening a shop.
I was lucky to be in Hanoi during Tet in 2009 and the markets and shops and streets were simply heaving with people buying goods. The main photo shows a guy with a kumquat tree on the back of his motorbike which is used as decoration in the living room during Tet. Its many fruits symbolise the fertility and fruitfulness that the family hopes for in the coming year. I've included a separate tip on the Tet celebrations plus added some video.
Favorite thing: As I mentioned earlier, 70% of Vietnam's population was born after 1975. For demographers, this creates a real worry as the agricultural society is experiencing a huge bubble of people moving through their child-bearing years, presaging a baby boom. During my stay there, it became clear that the government was worried about this, as there was an article in the state-run newspaper about the cultural reluctance of Vietnamese men to wear condoms, and how that needs to change. Birth control seems to be on the mind of many state planners, as well as AIDs control (though that was never stated). The sign in this photo is part of that public relations campaign.
Hanoi has lots of street markets, some are so inconspicuously blended with an alley, that you might walk right past it and not even notice that it was there.
The pasageway for pedestrians is very narrow, and it gets even narrower when a motorbike wants to pass by. There will always be some light motorized traffic in those alleys.
This street market was very close to the Melia Hotel; they sell food, vegetables, live chickens, incense, clothes, shoes, haircuts, pots and pans, etc.
In Vietnam the turtle is a symbol of long life so statues are to be found everywhere.
This one was one of many used as the bases for stele in Van Mieu (Temple of Literature)
Favorite thing: This is Chef Mai at Sofitel Metropole Hanoi. The class I took was a demonstration class, unlike the "hands on" one I did in Bangkok.
Favorite thing: In temples, you might spot these iron urns, with some intricate animal details. This dog (?) was the cover handle. I thought it was cute... ;)