Today’s Vietnamese Capital, Hanoi, has much to recommend it. There are religious and cultural highlights, reminders of the colonial period with impressive French architecture, busy streets in the Old Town and the lovely cuisine. Recently High School students from Phan Dinh Phung have added something else for those enjoying a Vietnam holiday to see. They have painted a series of murals about the history of the City in the streets of Phan Dinh Phung. They include the Long Biên Bridge, the famous One Pillar Pagoda, Hànội Old Quarter, and the trams in Hanoi’s streets in days gone by.
• Long Biên Bridgewas originally known as Paul Doumer Bridge, built during colonial times and named after the then Governor. It was completed in 1902 and designed by Gustave Eiffel. It was constantly bombed during the Vietnam War as it linked Hanoi and Hai Phong. With great views of the Red River, it is used by trains, motorbikes and cycles and holds a special place in the hearts of all the local population.
• Hanoi Old Quarter is a fascinating place to observe daily city life. Many of the locals have their breakfast in the street vendor food stalls on the way to work, and many also eat dinner at the same place on the way home. The food is guaranteed to be fresh because busy stalls have considerable turnover from first light until late at night. You should join them one day, sitting on a plastic chair and watching all the activity in front of you.
• One Pillar Pagoda which is located close to the Perfume Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is included on every Vietnam package. Its real name is Dien Huu and construction began during the Ly Dynasty in 1049 after King Thai Tong had a dream about seeing a Holy Lady sitting on a lotus flower. That was the outline of the design and the Pagoda was subsequently extended early in the 12th Century. Time has taken its toll as it would of course but it remains a stunning sight. The nearby Bodhi tree was a gift from the Indian President Rajendra Prasad to Ho Chi Minh.
• Trams are just one of the forms of transport in this hectic city. The first rule to remember as you try to cross the road is not to take any risks. The roads are full of traffic including cycles, motor bikes, taxis and tuk-tuks. You should not even think for a second about hiring a car and try driving around yourself. Use local services and enjoy walking in many parts of the City as well.
Hanoi is a thousand years old with a rich history; it is lovely to see some of it painted so well on these walls. Suddenly the walls that were previously covered with moss are a splash of colour. Street painting has become fairly common in Vietnam in recent years and it regularly receives positive comment from locals and tourists alike.