Monday, April 23, 2007

Hanoi 2007: Church Street

I recently went on a five day tour of Hanoi with a few good buddies of mine last month. As this was my second trip to the city in six months, I was initially a bit weary, fearing that it might get a bit boring to revisit the same sights again. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Firstly, this time, F had the good sense to arrange our trip in lovely spring weather (20ÂșC all day long) which meant we could walk the whole day sightseeing and not break a sweat - perfect for a profuse sweathog like me.

Secondly because I was the only one who been to Hanoi, the gang made me plan the itinerary. This meant I could decide to go to places I had missed the last time around and revisit the sights I loved previously.

And thirdly, the company was great. Four of us close buddies, having travelled together previously, knew each other's characters and idiosyncracies well enough to not step on each others' toes (literally!).

We stayed in Church Hotel this time around, a charming 3-star boutique hotel named after the St. Joseph's Cathedral which was situated in a small square just 200m down the road. The staff were very friendly and ever willing to help us, be it with directions to various sights, arrangements for taxis and day tours and even recommendations on the best places to eat and what to avoid.

St. Joseph's Cathedral (Na Tho Lon) offered us a glimpse into the bygone era of French Colonialism. It was built in 1886 during the earliest days of colonial rule, after the Nguyen King officially handed Hanoi over to the French.

The cathedral stands over the ruins of the demolished Bao Thien pagoda and is built in European Neo-Gothic style not unlike Paris' Notre Dame.

Speckles of light still dance through stained glass work, reported to be original 19th century masterpieces of French artists and glass makers, leaving a kaleidoscope of color on the towers, which stretch toward the sky.

The church holds mass twice daily for the scores of Vietnamese Catholics who throng the square every morning and evening as the church bell tolls signalling the beginning of service.

Call it luck, call it good timing. We found ourselves in Catholic Hanoi, in the middle of Easter Weekend with all the celebration and pomp that it entailed. The church was gaily decorated and lit (at night) and was a place for many a photo-op for the thousands of tourists, yours truly included.

1 comment:

crewcut75 said...

Nice work. Wish I was there but then I was having fun sweating in BKK as well!