A cyclo speeds through the Old Quarter of Hanoi
A cyclo speeds through the Old Quarter of Hanoi

I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Six years is quite a long time to return to a place. Hanoi was such a favorite destination of mine back then. Yes I’ve treaded the streets of the Old Quarter before, went to an overnight cruise at Ha Long Bay and even enjoyed the misty coolness of Sapa Valley during my first visit in Northern Vietnam. But I don’t mind going back to see what has changed that’s why I didn’t think twice when an invite for a familiarization tour of Hanoi, organized by Cebu Pacific Air and Stratworks came in the email. There’s the certain comfort of stepping back into the familiar and also a certain anxiety to see how things have transitioned from now to then.

A girl among Hanoi theatre mask
A girl among Hanoi theatre mask

Familiar Hanoi

Xin Chao! Welcome to Hanoi” greeted our English speaking guide, Duc, who has a distinct British-twang in his accent. Red-eye flights means we land in Hanoi in the dark so I had to keep my excitement until the morning to see the city in good light. But I did notice the numerous sky scrapers, probably condo developments near the vicinity of the airport which I didn’t notice before.

At the One Pillar Pagoda
At the One Pillar Pagoda

More than the One Pillar Pagoda

As with any familiarization tours, I just go with the flow, relax and let the organizers guide us through. Our first stop was to pay homage to the most famous man in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. At Ba Dinh Square, crowd of fellow tourist flock to get a sight of his granite mausoleum housing Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed remains. Just at the back of the mausoleum is one of the most iconic temples in Vietnam – the One Pillar Pagoda. This petite Buddhist temple was constructed by Emperor Ly Thai Tong as a form of gratitude to the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara after he dreamt of being handed a baby. Shortly afterwards, he got married to a peasant girl who bore him a son. The place is enclosed in a small garden currently being manicured at that time. I did love the detail of the gate doors to the temple. The small shrine also is also interesting as there’s a panel where small thumb portraits of the dead can be seen.

Crowded entrance to the Temple of Literature
Crowded entrance to the Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature

I never knew until this visit that November is the graduation season in Vietnam. A visit to the Temple of Literature found us going with the flow of newly graduate students taking posterity shot of this momentous moment within the 5 gated courtyard of Vietnam’s first national university built in 1070. It was hard to really appreciate the place but still it was amusing to see these young Vietnamese serious about getting their portraits right. From balloon props, to ornate dresses, to wacky poses up to what may seem like a pre-nuptial shoot already. I still got to see the Turtle Steles, the pavillions and the altars of Confucius and his disciples.

Two way. Cyclo in the Old Quarter
Two way. Cyclo in the Old Quarter

Cyclo Into the Old Quarter

An hour in the afternoon was spent riding a cyclo around the Old Quarter of Hanoi. The pace was too slow for me I almost dozed off but got excited when I saw familiar streets, coffee shops I had drank before, or that souvenir shop I brought from last time. Aside from the numerous wedding and pre-nuptial photo sessions in almost every corner of Hanoi and the Old Quarter, I’m glad that the old world charm that I used to know and experienced is still there. Yes there are more shops with outdoor brands too but hey it’s a way people earn for a living. And I can’t blame those couples doing their photoshoot here as the colors, the architecture and the busy streets is somewhat admirable and photogenic. I know a lot of street photographers would revel here (hence the black and white photos). At first I was afraid those commercial developments like the high rise condos I saw coming here would have invaded the Old Quarter. It’s a good sign I didn’t notice them here. I guess those high rise were deliberately only allowed outside of this heritage city. If I had my time, I would walk these streets again at my own pace and try to discover more charming hidden cafes, shops or what ever’s there.

Flow of people at the Temple of Literature
Flow of people at the Temple of Literature
A guard and a devotee burning incense at the Temple of Literature
A guard and a devotee burning incense at the Temple of Literature
At the gates of the One Pillar Pagoda
At the gates of the One Pillar Pagoda
Remembering the dead at the One Pillar Pagoda Shrine
Remembering the dead at the One Pillar Pagoda Shrine
New graduates having their photo session at the temple
New graduates having their photo session at the temple
More scene at the Temple of Literature
More scene at the Temple of Literature
A shoe shop at the Old Quarter
A shoe shop at the Old Quarter
Streetside eats in Hanoi
Streetside eats in Hanoi
The Pinay Solo Backpacker on a tourist cyclo
The Pinay Solo Backpacker on a tourist cyclo
Hanoi is so laid back people like to hang out at the streets
Hanoi is so laid back people like to hang out at the streets
On the Huc bridge at Hoam Kiem Lake
On the Huc bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake
Taking time to sit down at Hoan Kiem Lake
Taking time to sit down at Hoan Kiem Lake
The constellation of literature pavillion
The constellation of literature pavillion
Through the temple doors
Through the temple doors
Discover charming cafe through narrow alleys in the Old Quarter
Discover charming cafe through narrow alleys in the Old Quarter

 

Our familiarization trip to Hanoi was sponsored by Cebu Pacific Air. Cebu Pacific Air flies from Manila to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam thrice weekly every Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturday, leaving Manila at 10:20PM and arriving in Hanoi at 12:30am. Return flights will leave Hanoi for Manila at 1am every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and arrive in Manila at 5:15am.

For bookings and inquiries, guests can go to www.cebupacificair.com, or call the reservation hotlines (02) 7020–888 or (032) 230–8888. The latest seat sales and promos can also be found on CEB’s official Twitter and Facebook pages.

All photos from this post were taken with a Nikon D7100. Visit Nikon.ph.