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The Temple of Literature – Hanoi’s hidden gem

June 23, 2010

I came back to Hanoi in October 2007, after my first visit to the city in 1999. A booming economy had made the city change, a lot. Driving from the airport to down-town Hanoi was an eye-opener. I am not sure anymore if I was impressed or disappointed.

This city really entered into a next phase, being part of one of the Asian Tiger economies: a brand new highway made the traffic flow right into the city centre, massive advertising bill boards warning the visitors that Hanoi changed from being the place you used to know…

I could remember the city centre very well. Its narrow streets packed with small shops where each street was showing its own profession. The one street was full of shops with ladders, the other one with plumbing materials. One street only offered wooden furniture, in another one black smiths ruled the place. Of course the motorcycle was already the Vietnamese people’s favourite way of transport.

In 2007 it also looked like the use of the motorcycle was almost tripled! Crossing the road was difficult, especially for a foreigner. Where was the Hanoi that I used to love?

street life

Luckily I rediscovered this one place of tranquillity within this hectic city: the Temple of Literature. I visited the temple before in 1999 and luckily it had not changed a bit!

A bit of history on the place: The Temple of Literature is a Temple of Confucius and was founded in 1070. In 1076 the first Vietnamese university was established within the temple and functioned for more than 700 years. The temple consists of five courtyards, the first two are peaceful havens of ancient trees. The complex has undergone much restoration work, most recently in 1920 and 1954.

Temple of Literature 12 Temple of Literature 11

I have to be honest. To me the actual temple was not the most impressive. It was the surrounding temple grounds and courtyards that appealed to me. Wandering the grounds you could hear the motorcycles outside its borders, but these sounds seem to be dampened by the beauty of this place. To me the Temple of Literature is Hanoi’s hidden gem…

Temple of Literature 1 Temple of Literature 8

Temple of Literature 5 Temple of Literature 9

Temple of Literature 3 Temple of Literature 4

Re-visiting a place far away from home feels like coming home again (especially after so many years). Trying to find the exact place from where you took that particular picture you love so much. Discovering that although the city changed, your favourite spot did not. It has stood the test of time…

Temple of Literature 10 Temple of Literature 7

Temple of Literature 2

 

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From → Asia

3 Comments
  1. Emiel, temples and shrines in Japan had the same effect on me. And perhaps for the lack of them, that is why i did not care so much for Hong Kong! There was nowhere to escape the noise.
    Bravo on writing another travel post even though you took this trip a while ago. I really enjoyed reading it and glad you found a space to reflect and find some peace in Hanoi…..Keep writing. I know you have been many places and have many stories to share!

    • Dear Farnoosh,
      Thanks for your lovely comment. Glad we share also our love for Japan…are you taking Japanese lessons by the way?
      I will keep on writing for sure, improving my skills and trying to rediscover even the smallest travel experiences that are still hidden somewhere in my mind…
      Speak to you again soon!
      Emiel

      • Emiel, no Japanese lessons – funny you should ask because my husband and I LOVE Japanese and even decided to learn a few weeks ago but we came to the conclusion that with everything else (including most of personal projects) on our plates (esp. on mine ;))!, that it would be really difficult to tackle Japanese on our own right now. We settled on him learning French with my hep and on me pursuing Italian but I will still listen to my Japanese podcasts to learn the spoken language…
        Just keep writing, the stories will come :)!

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