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The cultural heritage of Hanoi that you should not miss

Hanoi capital - the land a thousand year old land with a diverse culture. Long Bien Bridge, Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple… is the nostalgia and heritage in the heart of Hanoi.

Long Bien bridge

The Long Bien Bridge was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French’s occupation of the country. Though the bridge was designed by French, it was built directly by Vietnamese workers with indigenous construction materials like woods from Phu Tho, Yen Bai, Thanh Hoa province, cement from Hai Phong, Long Tho lime from Hue.

Long Bien was considered the pride, symbol of architecture in the Far East. The bridge was a connection point to transport tons of rice from Northern and Northern Central area of Vietnam to Dien Bien Phu battle, and contributed to the win of Vietnam army against French, 1954.

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Today, Long Bien is only one of the seven bridges crossing the Red river of Hanoi. However, it may be the most special bridge with unique historic, architectural, and cultural value. It is the only bridge in Hanoi where all the riders have to go in the left hand side, where tourists can take a walk and taste mouthwatering desserts offered by vendors.

Many people living and visiting Hanoi said that Long Bien Bridge is the best place to look at the sunrise or the sunset and taking nice photos of alluvial patch. Many brides and grooms choose Long Bien Bridge as nice background in their wedding albums. Many tourists come here to visit a historical construction and view nice scenery. Many youngsters, teenagers take nice photos to keep memories of youth on the bridge or in the middle of alluvial patch with full of green tree. Many vendors and housewives still come here every afternoon for an open air market.

Hoan Kiem Lake

The lake is considered the center of Hanoi, not only physically but also symbolically. In fact, the more you spend time learning about the lake, the more special it becomes. The tale goes that Le Loi King came across a shining metal bar when he visited his friend. It turned out that his friend caught the bar in one of his attempts for fish. The King asked for the bar, brought it home and moulded it into a sword. All of a sudden, there was two words printed on the sword “Thuan Thien” (harmonious with heaven).

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Le Loi then understood that the sword was a gift from heaven. He used it for the battle against the war with a neighbouring country. At the beginning of 1428, when peace prevailed, on one of his trip to the Thuy Quan (now Hoan Kiem) Lake, there was a tortoise rising above water and shouting: “Please return the sword to the Dragon King”. Without hesitation, the King threw the sword to the lake. The tortoise took the sword and dove down the water. From then on, Thuy Quan became Hoan Kiem lake.

Nowadays, it’s still a gathering place yet new Hanoians may live too far to count their distance to the lake. Still, as you walk by, you will be able to witness the pace of life in this peculiar city. At about 5 a.m., you will see lines and lines of oldies and teenagers doing anything from yoga to tai-chi to aerobics. It looks as if the whole city was up and running for morning exercise. In the afternoon to the South end you can see a matrix of motorbikes twisting along the lake. Blending in is a gang of “cyclo” – the famous three-wheeled carriers that take tourists with cameras handy around.

Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple was built in the 18th century on Jade Island in the centre of the ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’ or Hoan Kiem Lake. Legend describes how an emperor was once given a magical sword which helped him defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty and in doing so saw the return of the Golden Turtle God to the lake.

Today ‘Turtle Tower’ stands close to the lake in memory of this legend. There are also endangered large soft-shell turtles swimming in the lake, and to see one of these gentle giants is considered very auspicious. The name of the temple translates to ‘Temple of the Jade Mountain’ and is predominately dedicated to war hero General Tran Hung Dao who defeated an armed force of 300,000 soldiers sent by Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan in the 13th century to invade Vietnam.

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Also inside the pagoda are a large bronze bust and other deities. There are altars dedicated to Tran Hung Dao, some ancient artefacts including ceramics and a preserved specimen of a giant turtle found in the lake weighing 250kg.

To get to the temple, the visitor walks through the Three-Passage Gate (Tam Quan) and across the Morning Sunlight Bridge (The Huc). The entrance complex, designed by Nguyen Van Sieu, consists of a series of three gates, replete with Taoist symbolism.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance, was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Also known as the Hanoi Citadel, many artefacts and items dating back to between the 6th and 20th centuries were excavated in 2004, including foundations of old palaces, ancient roads, ponds and wells.

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On top of these discoveries, archaeologists also found bronze coins, ceramics and pottery from China and many places in Asia, all of which demonstrate a close trading relationship in the area. Visitors should head for the display room that features interesting excavated items and mock-ups of the citadel itself.

The ancient site was the political centre of the country for 13 consecutive centuries and served as the capital of Vietnam for eight centuries. A notable attraction in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was the Hanoi Flag Tower, a renovated 40-metre-tall stone fortress offering expansive views of Ba Dinh Square and Hanoi City Centre.

Located in Ba Dinh District, entrance to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. This prominent site is also within a 15-minute walk from attractions such as Quan Thanh Temple, Vietnam Military History Museum and Cua Bac Church.
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Item Reviewed: The cultural heritage of Hanoi that you should not miss Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Nga Đỗ
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