Hanoi, or the Colonial City

Government Guest House.

Government Guest House.

Hanoi was captured by the French in 1873, and relinquished to Ho Chi Minh in 1954.  Compared to the 1000 years of Chinese rule over Vietnam, the 80 years of French Colonial rule seem like a mere afterthought.

However, having shifted the capital of French Indochina from Saigon to Hanoi in 1887, the French proceeded on a large-scale re-design of the ancient Sino-Vietnamese city.  The high, or low point, rather, of this systematic act of cultural desecration and genocide was the destruction of the city’s main temple and pagoda complex, and its replacement by a completely incongruous and even today, utterly hideous Gothic Cathedral of St John’s.

Other similarly ill-advised and totally out-of-place French impositions onto the city’s urban landscape include the Hanoi Opera House, hardly ever used in its time, and today, a sitting white elephant; the Maison Central, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton” and used as a prison for dissidents during the Colonial and Vietnam War eras; and dozens of other Beaux-Arts style civic and cultural institutions that still remain as Government offices today.

Not all of the French architecture is similarly reprehensible however.  The French were also responsible for a proliferation of beautiful villas that dot the colonial quarter and are today, home to the city’s foreign embassies and missions.  The same goes for the glorious Hotel Metropole, which today, continues to draw visitors from all over the world.

But ultimately, the French were fooling themselves if they thought they could forcefully re-create, in a city with such a long-standing history, a second Paris or Marseille.  Hanoi would refuse to be anything other than Hà Nội.

*  *  *  *  *

Wedding Photoshoot.

Wedding Photoshoot.

AIA Building.

AIA Building.

Saint Joseph’s Cathedral.

Saint Joseph’s Cathedral.

Nhà hát ca múa nhạc nhẹ Việt Nam.

Nhà hát ca múa nhạc nhẹ Việt Nam.

Police Building.

Police Building.

Hanoi Opera House to the left and the Hilton, to the right.

Hanoi Opera House to the left and the Hilton, to the right.

The Press Club.

The Press Club.

Stroll down Tràng Tiền at dawn.

Stroll down Tràng Tiền at dawn.

Silent street just off Tràng Tiền.

Silent street just off Tràng Tiền.

Maison Central, Hanoi’s central prison.

Maison Central, Hanoi’s central prison.

St Paul Municipal Hospital, across the road from the Temple of Literature.

St Paul Municipal Hospital, across the road from the Temple of Literature.

Colonial-era villas now functioning as foreign embassies.

Colonial-era villas now functioning as foreign embassies.

Colonial-era villa functioning as a bar.

Colonial-era villa functioning as a bar.

The Catholic Church of St Marie.

The Catholic Church of St Marie.

The Museum of Vietnamese History.

The Museum of Vietnamese History.

L’Institut Francais, Tràng Tiền.

L’Institut Francais, Tràng Tiền.

Colonial era façade, Đinh Tiên Hoàng.

Colonial era façade, Đinh Tiên Hoàng.

Vườn Hoa Con Cóc– whatever that means.

Vườn Hoa Con Cóc– whatever that means.

Colonial-villa, channeling a Swiss mountain chalet, Lê Phụng Hiểu.

Colonial-villa, channeling a Swiss mountain chalet, Lê Phụng Hiểu.

Classic view of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel.

Classic view of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel.

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About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Landmarks & History, Literature & Philosophy, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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