Hanoi temples: Sounds of silence – A travel photo essay

In collaboration with writer Meera Vijayann once again, I’m proud to bring you the second in my mini series of photo essays on the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. While the last one focused on the Vietnamese people’s love for their country, this one concentrates on two beautifully preserved Hanoi temples. Click the image below and I’ll take you there.

hanoi temples sounds of silence link Hanoi temples: Sounds of silence   A travel photo essay

CLICK THE IMAGE to go to the photo essay.

 

Hanoi temples: Sounds of silence

This photo essay takes you to two Hanoi temples, Văn Miếu (the Temple of Literature) and Đền Ngọc Sơn (the Temple of the Jade Mountain), which form part of the Vietnamese capital’s rich thousand-year-old cultural heritage. You can also enjoy more of Hanoi through my images in the photo essay ‘From Hanoi with love’.

Words are by Meera Vijayann.

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Catapult through a thousand years of history in Hanoi. Religion is everywhere; yet a sense of calm washes over when you step into Văn Miếu, the old Temple of Literature. Breathe deep. King Ly Thanh Tong’s serious gaze holds your wandering eye.

 

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Deeper inside the temple, a young student offers her prayers in silence. Devotees sit in quiet corners around the courtyard, taking in the scented air and beauty. Several important temples were destroyed during war-torn times, but locals remain rooted, protecting dying traditions.

 

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A painter skilfully practises his art as observers look on with curiosity. Calligraphy artists sketch the language of Vietnam’s Northern neighbour, reminding visitors of shared history while hoping to impress tourists and make a sale.

 

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Dressed in ceremonial red robes and a traditional headdress, a priest talks to assembled students. Proud parents and teachers look on, listening intently. Their young have worked hard, and today’s the day to mark their efforts.

 

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No temple is complete without a metal pot brimming with incense sticks. Visitors often light two or three as they pass, to honour their families. Tradition and age-old ties run deep in Hanoi, so simply surrender – and let the city refresh your spirits and soothe your soul.

 

From Hanoi with Love – A travel photo essay

This month, I teamed up once again with my favourite writer Meera Vijayann to bring you a slice of my recent travels in Vietnam. We’ve called this photo essay ‘From Hanoi with Love’ as a means of sharing some of the love I experienced while I was there. I’m not speaking of love for me, though my Vietnamese hosts were certainly wonderfully hospitable! I’m talking more of the passion they clearly have for their country, shared history and culture. Click below to see what I mean.

from hanoi with love link From Hanoi with Love   A travel photo essay

CLICK THE IMAGE to go to the photo essay.

 

From Hanoi with love

In the short time I recently spent in Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi, I was struck by a handful of things its residents had a very clear passion for. One was for the man who led them to independence from the French, Hồ Chí Minh. ‘Uncle Ho’, who famously taught his people to “love other human beings as you would love yourself”, was known for his simplicity and integrity on the one hand and his fierce commitment to Vietnamese nationalism on the other. Another passion was for their food. The young people who took me under their wings during my stay felt duty bound to introduce me to as many of the country’s speciality dishes as possible, no matter how weird and wonderful my palette found some of the ingredients to be (in truth, pretty much everything was delicious). Perhaps the overriding passion is for their country in general, as expressed so beautifully through the traditional art of water puppetry. The performance I went to see was entitled, So Sacred is the Word ‘Compatriots’, a sentiment I sensed echoing all around me, far beyond the theatre. It’s no wonder to me that the Americans met their match here during the Vietnam War.

The words for this photo essay were written by Meera Vijayann.

travel photographer tourism vietnam hanoi nationalal pride culture ho chi min mausoleum hdr 30260 From Hanoi with love

Say hello to Uncle Ho: Hanoi is no stranger to revolution. The Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, looming above Ba Đình Square, fills you with a sense of otherness. Guards in white uniform stand outside the door in muted respect for Uncle Ho (Hồ Chí Minh), modern-day Vietnam’s first president, whose embalmed body is preserved here.

 

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Changing times: You’ll find honour guards outside the Mausoleum all around the clock. Around midday, visitors hurry to witness the change of guard before they head to town. Amid excited chatter and hushed whispers, Hanoi seems to show you two sides of the city at once.

 

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Soul food and longing: Soo, a young Vietnamese man, enjoys a bowl of bún chả. Bún chả, a lightly grilled pork noodle soup, is a Hanoi favourite. On a visit to the capital in 1959, celebrated Vietnamese food writer Vu Bang described it as a “town transfixed by bún chả”.

 

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Horn of plenty: Every dish leaves the outsider guessing. In restaurants around town and outside on the pavements, it is common to see locals communally enjoying a Vietnamese Hotpot, a warming dinner dish. Slow cooked in a cauldron by the diners themselves, it has curious little additions that range from duck foetuses to baby crabs that may be eaten whole.

 

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A class apart: You’re never far from deep-rooted culture in Vietnam. The magnificent 11th Century tradition of water puppetry, which first originated in villages along the Red River, is kept alive by skilled artisans even today. Puppeteers stand behind a screen in a waist-deep pool, controlling puppets with bamboo rods from a distance. Every detail during the performance will render you wide-eyed in wonder.

 

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Leap of love: Patriotic folktales, delicious food, shared triumphs through history and a deep sense of national pride combine to keep Vietnamese people feeling rooted here. Its capital is a city that will welcome you with open arms, and make you want to know it intimately.

 

An evening in Banares, the ‘City of Light’ – A travel photo essay

Readers of my monthly newsletter may have seen this image before, because I offered it as a free wallpaper download in the December 2012 issue (you can click the link if you missed it then and fancy emblazoning your desktop with it now, and if you’re not a subscriber then you can sign up here). That month, an assignment for GSMA Mobile for Development (which you can read about in my Journal here) took me to the city of Banares (or Varanasi) in Uttar Pradesh. North India felt very different back then. It was winter, and the nights were pretty cool. My translator hardly seemed to remove the thick scarf from around his neck, possibly even while he slept! Now, as yesterday’s festival of Holi signified, Spring is very much here.

During some free time between trips out to rural locations, I strolled down to the ghats, the steps that descend to the Ganges, the river that’s so sacred to Hindus. There’s so much going on down there, as pilgrims flock from all over the country and abroad to perform rites, people come in search of healing or else to die and be cremated, children play cricket or with kites, foreign backpackers and hippies play the tabla or even the West African djembe together, and much more. I just wanted to let it all unfold around me. Then, as darkness fell, the real magic began.

Back in Bangalore, I shared some of my images with writer Meera Vijayann, the recent winner of a CNN-IBN Citizen Journalist Award (read all about that here), and together we crafted this photo essay for you:

an evening in Banares the city of light link An evening in Banares, the City of Light   A travel photo essay

CLICK THE IMAGE to go to the photo essay.