Hanoi’s irresistable charm

I have traveled to Hanoi more often than usual this year and I feel the city is becoming a friend to me. I used to believe that Hanoi and I were destined to be forever strangers but I confess I am warming to its charms.

My first visit in 2011 was during my first trip to Vietnam. I was overwhelmed by the seeming chaos of narrow streets, traffic, unwalkable pavements and the cultural gap that loomed between this inexperienced European and the ancient mysteries of this exotic, enigmatic city. I felt very out of place.

Last summer, I had occasion to spend two short periods in Hanoi to collect materials, images and sketches for a future project that involved drawing ten ornamental gates that form entrances to villages, the ancient citadel and some of the inner city neighborhoods. This was a fascinating journey of discovery. To the untrained eye, the difference between village gates and temple gates is not readily apparent but I soon learned that village gates are seldom decorated with any of the four sacred creatures of Vietnam: the dragon, tortoise, unicorn and phoenix. Village gates are plainer and, sometimes, they will even have the village name on the pediment.

The city and old citadel gates are fortified and have gorgeous Chinese lines and proportions with their tapering walls and pagoda-style pavilions on top.

But, to date, my favorite gate is one of the simplest. The gate to Yen Phu Village is just off Yen Phu Street on the southwestern shore of beautiful West Lake. Yen Phu is a bustling, trading street where you could probably buy almost anything imaginable. Shaded by tropical trees and bougainvillea, it is typical of the vibrant neighborhoods around Hanoi. I passed through the village gate and dropped down a winding street towards the ancient pagoda sitting on a land bridge connecting the island to the shore.

Here, in Yen Phu, they are known for breeding brightly colored ornamental fish. You can take your pick from the tanks of the dealers dotted along the perimeter road. The village is also known for its 1,000-year-old tradition of manufacturing incense sticks that is said to have come from China. It was a gorgeous day when I went in hope of seeing thousands of colored sticks drying on the shore in the sunshine. On this occasion, however, I was unlucky so I consoled myself by taking a table at one of the pretty waterside cafes to rest in the quiet, dappled shade of some cherry trees to enjoy the atmosphere that had a distinctly French flavor.

This quiet little enclave, hidden away behind the towering Hanoi Club is such a delightful retreat from the noise of Hanoi and the perfect place for an artist to be inspired by the tranquil lake, the pretty houses, an ancient pagoda and a few fishermen. So, I guess it’s not necessarily the gate’s style, nor its plain lines that makes it my favorite, but maybe the romantic and peaceful neighborhood beyond that makes it special to me.

A professional artist and author of A Week in Hoi An, Bridget March specializes in urban landscapes and aims to reveal the hidden treasures of city life and small town cultures through her illustrations. Bridget offers art classes and sketching tours in Ho Chi Minh City. For more of Bridget’s work, visit bridgetmarch.co.uk 

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

11 Must-See Online Exhibitions

Do you know what’s the greatest thing about the internet? You can do anything online – without getting up from the couch in your living room! And yes, that includes viewing exhibitions curated by the likes of Smithsonian and the British Museum. What’s more, such online exhibitions are free of charge. And, you can take

Read More »

A Brief History of Viet Comics

The term “Viet comics,” referring to comics originating from Vietnam, was created in the 1960s by Floral Age Bimonthly magazine; though the origins of illustration in Vietnam can be traced back to a much earlier period. Pre-1900, Vietnamese mạn họa or liên-hoàn họa were woodcut illustrations for storybooks. Those early Vietnamese pictures paved the way

Read More »

All About U Part Wig You Must Read Before You Buy It

What is u part wig? A u-part wig is essentially what it sounds like. It resembles the cross between a partial sew-in and a trim wig. With more exertion required than the previous and less exertion required than the last mentioned, a U-part wig is basically a wig with a little opening at the top

Read More »

How to Care for Your Jewelry

The big day is here, and you have adorned your beautiful dress. All that remains is for you to accessorize your attire to achieve a stunning look. You go to your drawer, open it, and alas! Your prized jewels are faded and rusty looking. You are dumbfounded on what to do. But how could you

Read More »

Styling Colorful Sunglass Lenses

Everyone likes a great pair of sunglasses. Whether you prefer an aviator style, wayfarer frame, or sizable geometric shape, lenses can come in various color shades. And if anything, you can never judge a sunglass by its color, at least not when it comes to eye protection. During the manufacturing process, sunglass lenses are treated

Read More »

Farmhouse sink installation – The ultimate guide

Are you going to design your holiday home and looking for kitchen styles? That’s great you have not finalized any style as I am going to show you the amazingly beautiful sinks that are farmhouse sinks. These sinks have a unique outlook that complements your sophisticated kitchen interior. So, whether you have to select for

Read More »