• Passing through the tea estates on the way to Ella
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    In praise of train travel

    What’s it about long-distance train journeys that brings out the little child in me. A sense of happiness each time I take my seat, listening to the train as it whistles past towns and the countryside. Hurtling through tunnels or racing with the setting sun. There is something that is magical and wonderful about train travel, letting me be the little kid that I always will be. Whizzing through a tunnel between Mostar and Sarajevo Hours spent watching from a window or door of a moving train, as scene after scene unfold. Striking up conversations with complete strangers as they get in at different stations, heading to places near and…

  • A rikshaw driver cycles his bike on the Truong Tien Bridge
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    Bridge over troubled water

    The Huong River, or Perfume River, runs through the city of Hue, dividing it between the old-world charm of the Imperial City and Thien Mu Pagoda on the one side and a more modern setting on the other. Bridging these two sides is the iconic Truong Tien Bridge. The iconic Truong Tien Bridge A bit of history A rattan bridge was initially built during the reign of King Le Thanh Tong who ruled between 1460 and 1497. Over the years, it was upgraded with wood. However, the bridge that we now know is a little over 100 years. It was built in 1899 by the French who ruled over Indochina…

  • Entrance to Quan Thanh temple Hanoi
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    Quan Thanh Temple – protector of Hanoi

    It’s amazing, the number of places that are there, waiting to be discovered when walking around Hanoi with no definite plan. Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter in the evenings and you realise it is the same bridge you have seen written about in innumerable blogs, with its bright red lights. It’s on one such walk that I discovered Quan Thanh Temple. View of the entrance to Quan Thanh temple from the shrine A bit of history The Quan Thanh Temple, formerly known as Truch Vu Temple, is a temple that has been built to face the North. It is one of four sacred temples that were…

  • Graphics mounted on the wall at Pasteur Street Brewing Hanoi
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    A visit to Pasteur Street Brewing taproom in Hanoi

    There is a revolution that has been slowly brewing in Vietnam since 2015. In a reverse of sorts, it’s been so contagious that it has finally spread from Ho Chi Minh City all the way to the Hanoi. Not to fret though. It’s a revolution of a different kind. Say ‘cheers’ to Pasteur Street Brewing taproom and their excellent selection of craft beers. The Coffee Porter and Jasmine IPA When I first visited Vietnam in 2007-8, there weren’t any craft beers available. At least none that I was aware of. To be honest, I wasn’t too aware of craft beer myself. It’s only in the last 10 odd years, on…

  • Entrance to the Vietnam Military Museum with a captured tank facing it
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    Vietnam Military Museum

    For those visitors who wish to understand a bit on Vietnam and its many wars for Independence, then a stop at the Vietnam Military Museum, or simply known as Military Museum is a must. It is Hanoi’s oldest museum. It opened its doors to the public on the 15th anniversary of the Vietnamese Army Day, in 1959 – a mere five years after they defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu. View of the B-52 wreckage in the courtyard A bit of history Vietnam’s history, especially the last century, has always been about fighting for independence. In the beginning, it was waging a war to get the French to leave…

  • Main entrance to Temple of Literature Hanoi
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    Temple of Literature

    Hanoi is a fascinating city, with endless amount of history, culture and activities to keep you engaged through your stay. It can also be chaotic, with even the act of crossing a street being quite stressful. So, if you feel the urge to take a break and seek a peaceful spot as sanctuary, there is one – the ancient Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university. Lotus flowers in the well within the third courtyard A bit of history It is within the hallowed gates of the Temple of Literature that a generation of future kings, mandarins, generals and doctors trained under the watchful eyes of well-respected and informed teachers.…

  • Main entrance to the Museum of Ethnology Hanoi
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    Museum of Ethnology

    The country’s biggest ethnic group may be the Viets – around 86% of the population. To understand more about the rest of the ethnic group, you would need to visit the furthest corners of Vietnam. Or, you could simply head to the Museum of Ethnology. Example of Hmong House An introduction A proposal to set up the museum was first approved on the 14th of December 1987. Constructed continued for a little under eight years, when on the 12th of November 1997, it opened its doors to the public. Sitting on a 10-acre property, about 8 km outside Hanoi, the exhibition building, in the shape of a Dong Son drum,…

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum with a guard of honour
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    Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex

    Ho Chi Minh is revered in Vietnam. He was both prime minister and president of North Vietnam and played a key role in the early stages of the Vietnam War. And what better way to honour a beloved leader than to embalm his body and have it on permanent display at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ba Dinh Square with Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in the background However, that is not what Uncle Ho, as he was popularly known as, wanted. Just before his death in 1969, he had left strict instructions that his ashes should be buried in the hills throughout both North and South Vietnam. However, his colleagues…

  • Main entrance to the Imperial City.
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    The Imperial City

    The Imperial City is, by far, the most prominent feature of the city of Hue. It sits on the Huong river, or the Perfume river as it popularly known as. It’s minutes away from the South China sea. And should be your first stop on a visit to Hue. The Vietnamese flag flutters atop the Citadel It’s exactly these features that caught the attention of Emperor Gia Long, the first ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty. Its proximity to the surrounding mountains also made it an ideal location. He went about setting a new capital in 1802, making Hue the administrative and military center of Vietnam. However, when the monarchy came…

  • Temple of Stratum Bodhisattva and Temple of Relatives
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    The Pagoda of the Celestial Lady

    Thien Mu Pagoda, also called the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady, is a must for all those who visit the imperial city of Hue. Garden behind the temple with bonsai trees For reasons best known to us, we chose to walk the distance from town. While I would ordinarily walk around 7 kms without too much of a hassle, so long as it’s an easy walk, this proved to be a bit tedious for other reasons. It was drizzling and chilly, like it had been all that week, both in Hanoi, and now in Hue. Except for the Huong river, or the Perfume river as it is famously known as,…