An even cooler morning greeted us for day 3 as we made our way through the dampened streets. The imperial city in Hanoi, Thăng Long city, has stood for almost 1000 years. It was once the home of many dynasties across the centuries and it is without doubt a testament to the spirit of Vietnam.
When the French colonised Vietnam, they destroyed many parts of the citadel and built buildings which reflected the western culture they wanted to imprint on the country. Walking around the peaceful grounds, it’s hard to imagine how much history (often violent) the imperial city has witnessed.
Evidence of the role played by the city in the war with America is evident throughout. Two bunkers, built deep underground housed officials and members of the Vietnamese people’s army and defended them against the many Ariel bombardments carried out by the USAF. They are built under the structures erected by the french, there is perhaps some symbolism in that of overcoming western invaders.
Around the corner from the citadel is the Vietnamese army museum. Within the compound are relics and monuments left over from the war with America. Fighter planes, helicopters, tanks and artillery from both sides are scattered around; timely reminders of how one of the most controversial conflicts in human history was fought.
One piece stands out from the others. It is a sculpture made out of remains of french and American planes shot down during the wars of the 50s and 60/70s. The wreckage is devastating at first sight, but the symbol of pride has been restored with this monument. Alongside the sculpture is an engine from the B-52 bomber which crashed in the lake across the city. It is poignant, but more so it is evidence of what the Vietnamese were proud of completing in their war with a superior force.
Within the grounds of the museum is the steps to the Hanoi flag tower. Built in 1812, the tower was a viewpoint to oversee the imperial citadel and has had a huge Vietnamese flag flying in top of it for almost as long. It’s a dominating structure which stands proudly amongst some of Hanoi’s greatest achievements
By this time we were pretty drained, especially with the humidity and the heat rising seemingly by the minute. Thankfully, another desired stop was on our walk back to the hotel and it was lined with coffee shops.
The Hanoi street train is famous for having a track running down narrow streets, the number of tourists solidified this. It’s incredibly picturesque and is relaxing in a busy sort of way; even more so with a local iced coffee.
The shop we chose was also a tattoo parlour and despite some interest, Steph decided against a souvenir ink. It’s a surreal place, with life going on around the tracks constantly. No trains came through during our coffee break, which was probably the most disappointing part.
This was about it for our stay in Hanoi and Vietnam. It had been an amazing two weeks with lots of memorable trips and visits. The heat aside, Vietnam is a country which is full of new experiences and new places to enjoy; and we only managed to see half of it. Next up, a flight to Busan: South Korea 🇰🇷