Vietnam – a young nation

When I visited Vietnam, I had never thought that I would write about it. Vietnam was a part of movies and books about the Vietnam War for most people like me. Much like it’s history, I discovered the place has a lingering effect.
The skyline of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam is a mix of newer constructions and old-style architecture. Built along the Red river, and blessed with many lakes, Hanoi is often called the ‘city of lakes’. A few years ago, the city celebrated 1,000 years of its establishment. The imprint of dynasties, colonisers and ideologies are to be seen all around the city.
For us, the day in Hanoi began with a visit to the Indira Gandhi Park. Located on the side of the Hoan Kiem Lake, it has a bust of our late Prime Minister that was unveiled in 1984. Lush green, the park was full of young people. Music played while a group of youngsters danced with abandon. In another corner some children were playing with a ball. Suddenly one realised that like India, Vietnam is a young nation. Pulsating with the energy and impatience of youth!
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Indira Gandhi Park, Hanoi
On a short visit, the Old quarter is a must see. Circling the Hoan Kiem Lake it offers shopping, French colonial architecture, trendy pubs, and beautiful lights reflecting in the lake. As we sat on a bench near the lake and watched the lights, the young of the city whizzed past on two-wheelers.
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Two wheelers galore
Some wearing helmets, the other the traditional conical Vietnamese hats. The young still use the ‘non-la’ or hat and the beautiful traditional dress ‘Ao Dai’.
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Traditional Hat
In the centre of the lake is a small pagoda like structure that is called the ‘Tortoise Tower’ and towards the north is a temple. There are lots of temples, pagodas, memorials and museums to see if you have the time. On a short stopover, Hanoi touches you with its civilisational strength, sense of history and its yearning to become part of the global stage.
A two-hour flight and one lands in a city that though steeped in history, has made the leap to contemporary metropolitan life. Ho Chin Min City, the erstwhile legendary Saigon, is the commercial capital of this energetic country. Skyscrapers, big cars, buses and a pace that is familiar typify the city. The most striking buildings of Ho Chi Min City belong to the French colonial period. Just in front of our hotel was the Ho Chi Min City People’s Committee Head office. A grand and lyrical building, it adorns a square from where one can walk towards all the important milestones.
We stayed at the well-known Rex hotel. The American troops made it famous in the Vietnam War, especially its conference room where they hosted a daily press conference.The roof top bar and restaurant is still a very nice place to spend an evening. The other fascinating building is the Central Post Office. Built in the French time, it has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel. Imposing inside, the place just doesn’t have the look or feel of a post office! One can also pick up souvenirs while enjoying the beautiful interiors.
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Post Office, Ho Chin Min city
Across the road is the grand twin towered Notre Dame Cathedral. A newly wed Vietnamese couple was busy getting themselves photographed with the Cathedral as a back drop. For those interested in history the War Remnants museum and the Reunification Palace are a must see. The former is a grim reminder of what conflict does to humanity.
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Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chin Min city
For us, a trip to Ho Chi Minh City could not be complete without a glimpse of the legendary Saigon River. We drove to have coffee at a restaurant on the banks of the river. Today it flows between its widespread banks quietly as construction takes place along its way. In the city, markets overflow with lacquer ware that is a favourite buy, as also pottery. A traditional Vietnamese meal must also be tried and enjoyed.Much like Hanoi, a large part of the young in Hi Chi Minh City travels on two wheelers.
In the evening, as we walked back towards our hotel from the market it suddenly began to pour. We took shelter under a shop awning. Like a miracle all the two wheelers suddenly sprouted plastic sheets and raincoats. Without a pause, the endless stream of two wheelers whizzed past as the rain pelted down. It is this ‘never say die’ spirit that has made the nation what it is. One senses this zeal everywhere in the country.
Much like individuals, the past also defines the character of a nation. Vietnam is one place where this is most in evident.
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18 thoughts on “Vietnam – a young nation

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  1. Looked like you really had a great experience there. I have heard another experience like this. Hope I could share mine too when the time comes that I already visited Vietnam.

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  2. I miss Vietnam! I was in Saigon back in 2010 as part of my Asian trip with my friend. We never got to visit Hanoi though and I would love to sometime in the future. It’s good that you enjoyed yourself and got to know its culture up close and personal. Great photos too! I remember, I had the shock of my life when I saw so many motorcycles on the road. I’ve only seen that in Vietnam. I miss it!

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  3. Vietnam had gone down to a very traumatic and terrible historical world event. I am referring to the Vietnam war which is considered as one of the longest wars in the world.

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  4. I visited Vietnam a few times before, both the North and the South. It is a beautiful country. Halong Bay was beautiful! I deliberately didn’t look at photos of that before I went there so that it could be a surprised, and wow, my breath was taken away!

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  5. I was able to visit Ho Chih Minh site and I can really see a lot of french influence including the Notre Dame. Vietnam also has a lot of natural attractions as well as heritage sites from the wars and other events.

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  6. I had only been to Ho Chi Mihn City in Vietnam. I want to visit Hanoi as well, and go to Halong Bay also. The war memorials are very eerie and depressing places, and these should inspire people to strive for peace.

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  7. Vietnam has always been high on my list of places to visit. Your post is soo timely 🙂 Will bookmark this for reference 🙂 Thank you!

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  8. Vietnam :

    Da Nang & Hoi An :

    The most exciting part of the trip started from an hours journey from Ho Chi to Da Nang city – a modern developing city. We stayed in GOLDEN SAND RESORT & SPA – a Swiss bel hotel at Hoi An . This is one of the top ten travel destination in the world as reported by Times Magzine – really a very luxurious resort. Here we had excursion to BANA HILLS having world’s highest Trolly which takes you to a height of 16435 feet – the longest & fastest non-stop trolly of world . A certificate of Guiness Book of record is also displayed there to this effect. On top they had beautiful hotel & Disney type attractions. One can imagine the breathtaking views from such a height sliding up words sitting inside the trolly.

    My – Son Valley ( not my son )- name of place : temples of Champa , dynasty 4 to 13 th century ruins – destroyed by US bombardment but a beautiful Shiva lingam has been found safe & kept in a museum there. This is a complex of destroyed Hindu temples. Another place worth visiting at a distance was a Night Market – 17 th century old French establishment retained in its original character, well lit by colorful lights on both sides of river is a delightful treat to the eyes – selling souvenirs & serving tasty dishes,
    HUE :
    This was an ancient city – seat of Kings of Nguyen Dynasty Palaces,museums & tombs dating back to 1804 .this was on way to Hoi.
    Dong Hoi
    Don in dense Phongna National Park, a heritage sight of UN, were Phong Na caves 7.735 km long. We had to traverse through small boats in the the river flowing in the bed of these caves. It was a wonderful sight beyond imagination and tourists were allowed by boats upto 1.5 km opened in 1995 for tourists . They say these caves were used by Americans for storage of ammunition & as hospital during the Vietnam war which lasted for 20 long years & ultimately Americans lost the war .

    Nearby were TIEN SON CAVES :
    Discovered in 1935, these are longest dry caves in world 35 Kms , tourists allowed upto 1 Kms around traversing through around 200 steps and planks . These caves have mind blowing & mesmerizing stalactites & stalagmites chambers as visible in photographs. These are so natural colorful structures some looking like huge chandeliers & beyond imagination – as if recently painted.

    HANOI :

    Next destination was Hanoi – capital of Vietnam – a beautiful modern city maintaining ancient look as well. There were beautiful huge Malls & shopping centres. Centre of the city has a picturesque lake. This was starting point for next destination viz. Halong Bay – a distance of about 4 hrs by road.

    Halong Bay :

    The time spent at Paradise Luxury Cruise was one of the most memorable part of whole journey. They took care of minutest details to make the comfort kinglike – choice of food & drinks was lavish – luxury personified. The Halong Bay was mesmerizing with cluster of mountains emerging from the sea, the serenic beauty , beautiful sun-set to watch & facilities for Canoeing. Then again on the reverse leg via Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh via Singapore way back the sweet home – the best place to live in !

    One thing needs to be mentioned that Vietnam was lush green, well maintained beautiful roads with enough flower & fauna on road dividers and alongside and no beggars to be seen anywhere. Indian restaurants in plenty. Last but not the least, you spend like King as your lunch/ dinner will cost about 8-10 lakhs of Dong ( Vietnamese currency ) similar was situation in Indonesia where your Rupee counts.
    Sudhir k sharma

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