I am slowly getting acclimatized to Hanoi (pop.6.5 million) and its unstoppable traffic. I’ve learned to keep walking slowly, listen to the honks and keep to the side of the road. Pedestrians are the lowest ones on the totem pole, so I know now not to get outraged when people on bikes, motorcycles and in cars come hurtling towards me. Survival tip: Keep moving and get out of the way.
Just off Yen Phu, a major and scary thoroughfare that I have to cross daily to catch the bus to work, is Truc Bach, my new home home. It is a wonderful little neighbourhood on tiny Truc Bach lake, a diked off portion of Tay Ho Lake.
I was a little shocked to learn this is where Senator John McCain landed when he was shot down during the Vietnam War (known here as the American War), in 1967.Here’s what I found out about it on Wikipedia – US Navy aviator John McCain was shot down by anti-aircraft missile on a mission against a Hanoi powerplant and parachuted wounded into Truc Bach Lake, nearly drowning. He was dragged out of the water and beaten by city residents who were angry at having seen the area laid to waste by previous US attacks. He was later taken away as a prisoner of war. There’s a monument celebrating his downing called Tchen Sney Ma Can on the western shore of the lake, which McCain saw on a trip to Vietnam in 1985. A lot has changed since his horrible experience. Most people here are under the age of 30 and don’t even know who he is. Plus, the area is now filled will posh hotels including the Sofitel, the Hanoi Club and the Sheraton. It’s a very desirable neighbourhood, especially a little north in an area called West Lake which is populated by expats.
1) Truc Bach was separtated from Tay Ho by the construction of a dike in the 17th century, allowing inhabitants to fish. Today I saw a ton of dead fish floating around in the water. It is extremely polluted. Don’t know what these fish died of, but there are still lots of fishermen and nets to be seen. Would never eat anything caught here.
2) In the 1700s, Truc Lam Palace was constructed on the lake shore. It first served as a pleasure palace but was later converted in to a prison for royal concubines found guilty of crime. The silk they produced became known as ‘Bamboo Village’ Silk and was famous for its beauty. At the time, the area was known also for its crafters of bamboo blinds. Haven’t seen this palace prison, but will ask about it.
3) Apparently there’s a shrine to a hero from the war against the Chinese (Yuan Dynasty) on my street. Must look for it.