In a city where it’s nearly impossible to cross the street because the traffic never stops, it’s hard to imagine that at the center of it all, you’d find peace. But that is the dichotomy of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake. This haven in the center of town draws locals and tourists alike for its beauty and tranquility. If you’re staying in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, it’s an easy walk to P Dinh Tien Hoang street.
Around the lake you’ll find a lovely café, park benches perfect for chatting, locals involved in group exercise, and on the east side, a few beautiful sculptures. It’s hard to miss this gigantic sculpture of the globe being held by two protective hands; and on the top of the world, a small dove – the symbol of peace shared throughout the world. It’s a good place to stop and reflect on your journey, the things you’ve seen, and the people you’ve met; and to whisper up a prayer that peace would...
To me, a lot of Vietnam has a “rough” feel. There is constant traffic, a lot of people, and land still recuperating from the war; but not so in Hoi An. Hoi An is a beautiful little town, untouched by many of the tragedies that have taken place in Vietnam. At times, it can feel a world away from the rest of the country.
Hoi An sits along the Thu Bon River, on Vietnams’ eastern border. Many of the untouched buildings look as if they’ve been placed there for a movie set. Walking down the narrow streets, passing temples and buildings with French colonial facades, it’s like stepping back in time. Hoi An is also a town known for its craftsmanship. Dress shops line the streets, and within 24 hours, you can have a whole new wardrobe made to your exact measurements. There are fantastic restaurants, gourmet coffee shops, and trendy wine bars.
One evening after a delightful Vietnamese claypot...
One overcast day in Hoi An, my husband and I wandered down to the river and found a lady and her 2 young daughters willing to row us about 30 minutes up river, to a pottery-making village we had read about.
When we arrived, the little girls decided to be our impromptu guides. They led us from house to house, where we watched villagers at their craft. As we were nearing the end of our “tour,” we wandered past a house where a very old woman was sitting on the ground, shaping a jar on a small wooden wheel. She smiled warmly and waved us in. We watched in amazement as she expertly shaped and smoothed each jar. Fortunately for us, a younger woman there spoke English and told us that the woman was her 88 year-old grandmother! She told us every generation of her family learns this skill and participates in one way or another.
I wandered around the make-shift shelves displaying their work, and...
There is very little that rivals the artistry and care given to the temples in Vietnam. These sacred spaces, which have provided peace and refuge for generation upon generation of Buddhists, don’t skimp on details.
At the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, even the incense holders are delicately designed to protect the prayers that rise in smoke from their sticks.
Located on Quoc Tu Giam street in central Hanoi, the Temple of Literature was Vietnam’s first Univeristy. It is now used as a temple honoring Confucius. The grounds boast beautiful gardens, sacred headstones, and gorgeous carved rooms. It is definitely a spot not to miss in Hanoi!
Even with the expanse of the grounds, it can get extremely busy; so it is best to visit in the morning hours.