I came back to Hanoi in October 2007, after my first visit to the city in 1999. A booming economy had made the city change, a lot. Driving from the airport to down-town Hanoi was an eye-opener. I am not sure anymore if I was impressed or disappointed.
This city really entered into a next phase, being part of one of the Asian Tiger economies: a brand new highway guided an immense traffic flow right into the city centre. Massive advertising bill boards warning visitors that Hanoi changed from being the place you used to know to something different…
I remembered the city centre from my earlier trip very well. Its narrow streets packed with small shops where each street consisted of shops executing similar professions. For example, one street was full of shops with ladders while the other one offered only plumbing materials. Another one offers wooden furniture where elsewhere black smiths rule the place.
Already long way back, the motorcycle was the Vietnamese people’s favorite way of transport. In 2007 it actually looked like the use of the motorcycle was tripled! Crossing the road was difficult, especially for a foreigner. Where was the Hanoi that I used to love?
Finding tranquillity in a hectic city
Luckily I rediscovered this one place of tranquillity within this hectic city: the Temple of Literature. I visited the temple before in 1999 and luckily it had not changed a bit!
A bit of history on the place: The Temple of Literature is a Temple of Confucius and was founded in 1070. In 1076 the first Vietnamese university was established within the temple and functioned for more than 700 years. The temple consists of five courtyards, the first two are peaceful havens of ancient trees. The complex has undergone a lot of restoration work, most recently in 1920 and 1954.
Temple of Literature: the temple grounds
I have to be honest. To me the actual temple was not the most impressive. The surrounding temple grounds and courtyards appealed to me way more. Wandering the grounds you hear the motorcycles outside its borders, but these sounds are dampened by the beauty of the place. To me, the Temple of Literature is truly Hanoi’s hidden gem…
Re-visiting a place far away from home feels like coming home again (especially after so many years). Trying to find the exact place from where you took that particular picture you love so much. Discovering that, although the city changed, your favorite spot did not. It has stood the test of time…
Read all stories about our travels to Vietnam: