Hey, Hanoi: The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and the Temple of Literature

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One cannot go to Hanoi without exploring its rich past.

On my last day in the Vietnamese capital, I stopped by a bookstore and picked up a copy of A Brief Chronology of Vietnamese History, and was surprised by its troubled beginnings. The country has experienced wars since 218 BC, most famous of which are the Indochina Wars that shaped modern-day Vietnam. As a reminder of its past, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long still stands and serves as a tourist attraction for those wanting to study Vietnam’s history.

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Hey, Hanoi: Food

One of the highlights of my trip Hanoi was the food. Vietnamese cuisine is known worldwide, and I got a firsthand experience of how good it was. I tried the staple banh mi, pho, and spring rolls, and I still crave for it today.

The trick to eating in Vietnam, and anywhere else, is to eat where the locals eat. Many of them eat in holes in the wall or on humble stands next to busy intersections. Most of the time, proprietors set up clusters of low tables with even lower chairs, a challenge for someone like me who stands six feet tall. The experience was definitely worth it.

In the six days I spent in Hanoi, my favorite meal would have to be the bún chả at Bún chả Hương Liên. It became famous when food authority Anthony Bourdain took US president Barack Obama, there and the food they ate became the Obama special: bún chả (fatty grilled pork in soup, vermicelli noodles, and loads of leaves), fried shrimp roll, and a cold bottle of Hanoi beer. Not bad for P180.

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Hey, Hanoi: Museums

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I am very jealous of Hanoi because it has so many museums. In my trip, I was able to go to seven, an impressive feat considering they are within (relative) walking distance to each other. The museums offer different things, which isn’t surprising considering Vietnam has a rich cultural history. I wish we could do the same for Manila.

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Hey, Hanoi: Introduction

I was supposed to go to Hanoi last February. I had booked my ticket and my hostel, and bought a new bag and camera. I was looking forward to the trip, but that month was busy and incredibly stressful, so I mixed up the date of my departure and went to the airport the following day. It was a painful (and costly) lesson in being fully-present: what else could I miss if I live my life in a constant state of preoccupation?

Luckily, another seat sale popped up. Actually, it was my friend Janessa who was looking for flights (it was also Janessa who was looking for flights when I booked the trip I missed). On a lark, I decided to look for flights to Hanoi and found a cheaper ticket. Being an impulsive cat, I booked a trip this September and made it!

My flight is part of a series of regular solo trips where I reflect on my current situation. Having no one to talk to, I am forced to examine the issues I put at the back of my mind and find solutions. In a way, it’s a retreat to “find myself.”

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