Hanoi: Capital of Vietnam for 1000 years

by | Apr 21, 2016 | Asia, Hanoi, Vietnam | 6 comments

I was terrified in Hanoi.

I wanted to leave immediately. What terrified me? TRAFFIC! I could not cross the street! There are no traffic lights, no crosswalks, no stop signs, no lanes….. and an endless tsunami of motor scooters.

There are YouTube clips on how to cross the street in Hanoi. These are not helpful when you are facing a tsunami and you are just expected to wade into it.

This is not my photo of traffic. I was too traumatized to even think about snapping a pic.

This article must have been written about me!

Why Did the Tourist Cross the Road? The Real Riddle Is ‘How’


Be relaxed and self-confident.


Walk slowly with purpose.


Never step back.


While visitors to London might discuss the weather and tourists in Paris debate restaurant choices, here in the Vietnamese capital it is hard to escape the elemental conversation on how best to cross the street.


A decade or so of capitalist fervor has transformed Hanoi’s once-quiet, tree-lined boulevards and side streets into roaring rivers of rubber and steel. Tourists, when they are not cowering in their hotel rooms, can be spotted standing by the side of the road wearing expressions that range from startled to stupefied.


[Asia Pacific | Hanoi Journal  By THOMAS FULLER         SEPT. 27, 2012]
This is my survival-guide tip on crossing the street:

Wait for a school kid to come along and tuck in right behind the kid.

Vietnam has embraced capitalism. The motor scooter is a sign of economic success. Its pro-capitalism population has abandoned bicycles in favour of motor scooters.

A special report from PricewaterhouseCoopers names Hanoi as the fastest growing city in the world in terms of GDP growth.

With economic success, cars are replacing motor scooters. Traffic congestion will morph into traffic chaos. Maybe traffic will come to a complete standstill and …

I will be able to cross the street!

Hanoi is the “Paris of the East” and the cultural centre of Vietnam

With my street-crossing tactic firmly in place, I was ready to explore Hanoi, the cultural centre of Vietnam and its capital for over 1000 years.

Hanoi was also the capital of French Indochina. French influences are everywhere in Hanoi.

The main tourist area is the Old Quarter, where the original streets and architecture are preserved. It is populated with small artisans and shops, including many beautiful silk shops. I wanted to see every one, which is why I needed to cross the road a lot!

Outside the Old Quarter, there is more space, which is put to good use in unusual ways.

This parking lot is a perfect spot for a game of badminton.

School Days

This is a picture of a classroom, set up on the sidewalk.

Back to School: Cooking School

A cooking class is a popular activity for tourists in Hanoi. Our hotel made arrangements for us to go to the Hanoi Cooking Centre.

This activity was lots of fun and very interesting. Just one other couple had signed up that same morning.

We shopped at a traditional food market in Hanoi

Our guide, Tracey Listera, is a Melbourne chef who has made Hanoi her second home.

Tracey took us to the local market and bought everything for our three-course lunch. She was a fount of information on all the exotic foods on display.

Even inside the market, we had to watch our every step because motorcycles drive right through the busy market!


Tracey bought a bag of fresh grubs. Was this on the menu for lunch?
Thank heavens that frogs were not on our lunch menu!
The chef fried the grubs.
Did you know that grubs crackle when they are fried in hot oil?
This is a close-up of fried grubs.
Eating a fried grub
I felt like I was on The Amazing Race.
The Challenge: Eat a fried grub!
Other than eating grubs ….. What a fabulous experience!

The chef helped us prepare fabulous dishes for our exotic lunch.

When it was time to taste our morning’s labours, we were seated at the café with our cooking compatriots. We were served what we had prepared, paired with a well-deserved crisp white wine.

It is too hot in Hanoi in August!

Do you notice how hot I look in this photo? The kitchen was air-conditioned, but I was hot the whole time I was in Hanoi. It wasn’t just hot and humid…. it was hot hot hot and humid humid humid. We lived in Singapore for two years, so I was used to heat and humidity, but not like this. We were in Hanoi in August. We had no option. We were in Asia because I delivered a paper at a conference in Hong Kong. We tacked on the side trip to Vietnam.

Hanoi has seasons. If you have the option, spring or fall would be best.

The Temple of Literature is my Highlight of Hanoi

Vietnam’s first university is almost 1000 years old

The highlight of Hanoi for me was the Temple of Literature. The Temple is Vietnam’s first national university, built in 1070.

The Temple of Literature is dedicated to Confucius and his theory of ethics, based on the principle that the cultivation of knowledge is the foundation for virtuous action.

Dr Turtle

When a student completed his doctorate, his name was engraved on a stele of a turtle. The turtle is a symbol of wisdom and one of Vietnam’s 4 holy creatures.

People like to touch the heads of the turtles. Perhaps they think that the wisdom will rub off on them. The red rope is in place to discourage people from touching the turtles.

I loved these turtles with their timeless record of the importance of knowledge.

There are 82 surviving steles. Each turtle seems to have a distinctive personality. Some were solemn and serious. I liked this happy turtle the best.

We had lots of fun in the Temple of Literature

If you know this family, please send them the picture.

While we were examining the turtles, a Vietnamese family asked if I would take their picture…..on my camera. My camera does not have wifi so I couldn’t send them a copy.

I love this picture of a three-generation family enjoying an outing at the Temple of Literature.

Please return next Friday for our Drive of Terror to reach the breathtaking World Heritage Ha Long Bay
Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at BoomerVoice.ca
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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