Embark on a discovery of the ‘City Beyond the River'.
Vietnam's capital, on the banks of the Red River delta, defies all cliché. More attractive and mysterious than ever, Hanoi fascinates us with its disarming magic.
Discovering Hanoi is a great life lesson. Its streets run into each other, and each has its own secret little theatre sketch that one stumbles upon while wandering through. On one street, a barber is busy shaving a client sitting in a chair on the sidewalk. He is using a mirror that he has hung up on a wall between two stalls. A couple of streets over, a popular food kiosk, with small plastic chairs and hot, bubbling pots, has taken over a tiny space between two mopeds. Further on, bikes with baskets full of exotic, colourful flowers zigzag through the unceasingly flowing traffic. What a show! Just trying to cross one of these busy streets is a memorable feat.
This is a city with an unusual destiny. According to legend, in the 11th century, the founder of the Ly Dynasty saw a golden dragon emerge from the lake and ascend to heaven while he was on his way to an ancient city on the Red River. Impressed by this omen, he transferred the capital from Hoa Lu to Dai La. Renamed ‘Thang Long', which means ‘dragon rising up', the modest village by the lake with its houses on stilts quickly grew into a real city.
Like the phoenix, the mythical creature so revered in Vietnam, the Hanoi we know today has reinvented itself over and over again through the centuries. Without denying its past and its ancient culture, and despite distant Chinese and French influences, fierce fighting and terrible suffering, these unexpected rebirths have forged the character of the city, and even given charm to its colonial past. One must therefore lose oneself in Hanoi in order to truly find the city.