Our second day at Hanoi dawned and we were all ready for another day of sightseeing with Mr Ang. After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, we met Ang and boarded our bus for the trip. One unique feature of this group tour was that we started each day with a small prayer in the bus thanking the Lord for everything and asking him to take care of the world. The prayer had such a soothing feel that it kept us happy throughout the day.
Our first destination was Tran Quoc Pagoda
Tran Quoc Pagoda is more than 1500 years old and the oldest pagoda in Hanoi. It was first located on the banks of the Red River where it was damaged. Then it was moved on to this island on the West Lake and from then on was called Tran Quoc Pagoda meaning National Defence. The Tran Quoc has ancient Buddhist architecture.
The serene ambience of the gardens, the beautiful West Lake and the architecture of the buildings in the complex make this place very beautiful.
At the entrance, I found something unique and nice. A lady had some birds which we can purchase and release from the cage, like saving a living creature.
Saving the birds…the Vietnamese way…
Once you enter the complex, there is a huge pipal tree in the courtyard outside the main shrine. This tree was presented as a sapling by the President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad in 1958 . It has now grown into a massive tree. The Pipal is considered very sacred by the Buddhists as Buddha got enlightenment from under the Bodhi tree.
The Pipal Tree gifted by India
Once you pass the tree you reach the main shrine where locals pray regularly.
The shrine and a local offering prayers
A 11 storey high Stupa forms the highlight of this complex and can be seen from far away. Each floor has a vaulted window with the image of Buddha. The top of the stupa has a lotus.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Our next destination was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which houses the embalmed body of the Vietnamese revolutionary leader and President Ho Chi Minh. It is located at Ba Dinh Square where the declaration of Vietnamese independence and establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam took place. The mausoleum is built on the same lines as the Lenin mausoleum in Russia as Ho Chi Minh was an ardent follower of Lenin and communism. The Ba Dinh square also houses the Vietnamese parliament.
On either side of the main building are platforms used for parade viewing. The front of this platform has a banner reading President Ho Chi Minh on one side and the other reading Long live the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh is highly revered by the Vietnamese and they call him Uncle Ho. He is considered as God by the local people.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Reads Long live Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Situated next to the Mausoleum, was another attraction, the One Pillar Pagoda.
One Pillar Pagoda
A historic temple located in central Hanoi, it has unique architecture and stands on one pillar. It resembles a lotus which is the Vietnamese national flower and consists of a square shrine standing on one pillar in the middle of a pond.
It was built in the 11th century when the King wanted a son to follow on with his legacy, but he did not have a son. One night, he dreamt of a lotus with a beautiful lady and a son. Hence the temple is built like a lotus in the pond. After that, he had a son and so many locals come here to worship asking for sons and grandsons. This is a highly revered place of worship for the locals and one has to follow a reasonably decent dress code here.
In most of the Vietnamese temples, we find fruits as offerings by the devotees. Bunches of burnt incense sticks are also commonly seen.
One Pillar Pagoda
The shrine with offerings by the devotees
The Temple Of Literature
An oasis of peace and tranquillity in the midst of chaotic traffic of the city; this is a place for meditation and self reflection . Once a famous University, today it is a memorial.
Built in 1070 as a University, dedicated to Confucius, it is one of the better preserved monuments at Hanoi. This university was dedicated to science and literature and admitted students from the nobility who were taught Confucian values. Exceptionally, outstanding children from among the commoners were also admitted here. So, it was considered a matter of pride to secure an admission to this great university. It blossomed into the Vietnam Imperial Academy, a coveted university.
The temple of literature is also an outstanding example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Many parts of this memorial were damaged in the Vietnam war and rebuilt there after. Some pictures….
A model of the Temple of Literature complex gives one a perspective of how huge it is!!!!
The main gate of The Temple of Literature
This gate leads one into a huge complex with five courtyards. There is a long paved walkway through the complex.
The long walkway through the university complex
The pond and another enclosure inside the complex
The Turtle is considered very sacred and lucky in Vietnam. The students used to touch the turtle before their exams. Now preserved in an enclosure. Turtle is also a symbol of longevity.
A gold plated ceramic turtle preserved in a glass enclosure
There are many stone turtles with plaques on their back with inscribed names of the students who acquired degrees here. Acquiring a degree was a very prestigious thing and hence plaques with names of such students was installed here.
The turtles with plaques and Ang with his flag guiding us along
A statue of a bird that brings happiness lies in the complex and everyone of us touched it…..to be happy!!!!
The bird of happiness( note that even the bird is on a turtle back!)
Traditional Vietnamese architecture in wood in full display at the final courtyard leading to the shrines
And finally the shrine dedicated to the Master himself…Confucius
By now, we were all tired and it was time for lunch. We headed to an Indian restaurant for lunch.
At first sight, I knew the owner was a Tamilian with ash smeared on his forehead and a typical accent. But the guy seemed reluctant to acknowledge his roots!!!
Another Indian restaurant at Hanoi
Post lunch, we had a small shopping session and headed right back to down town Hanoi for a Cyclo tour.
It is basically a cycle rickshaw in which two passengers can sit and they take you around the narrow by lanes of the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
With two wheelers whizzing past and screeching to a halt now and then, it can be quiet an adventure filled activity with your heart in your mouth every now and then. The drivers are elderly people and one almost feels sorry for them. The Old Quarter of Hanoi has narrow streets and each street has shops selling particular goods like one lane for hardware shops, one lane for jewellery shops etc.
Take a look at some pictures of our adventurous trip in the old quarter of Hanoi.
Our driver along with the cycle rickshaw
Manoeuvring the streets of Old Quarter Hanoi
A typical shop in the Old Quarter of Hanoi
A short video of the cyclo tour
After an hour of this adventure through the old quarter, we got off the rickshaw in one piece and headed for dinner and back to the hotel. Next day was expected to be a long day but a very picturesque one, visiting Halong Bay.
See you next week at Halong Bay. Till then, do keep your comments and feedback coming like the two wheelers of Hanoi…..