The city on the bank of the Red River
“Hanoi!? It was crazy! So chaotic! Have you managed to work it out?” asked one of my friends who visited the city earlier this year. He has been travelling through Vietnam on a motorbike from the north all the way down to Ho Chi Minh City. I had to admit to him that there were moments when I found Hanoi pretty confusing but I enjoyed paying this extra attention to my surroundings and occasionally checking the map. I bet it must have been more difficult to master the directions and roads signs being for the first time in Asia – “Come on… if it was easy you would not be happy either.” – His girlfriend just rolled her eyes and we both giggled.
It is not only Hanoi’s urban structure that can be viewed as far from being simple. The political significance of the city and the events of the past introduced some other layers of complexity. Located in the northern part of the country on the delta of the Red River, Hanoi lost its capital status to Hue for a century, played an important role in French Indochina and from 1945 was the capital of North Vietnam. In the end it became the capital of a reunified Vietnam in 1976, after the North’s victory in the Vietnam War.