January 19, 2016
My son, Kim and I arrived early in morning in Vietnam leaving enough time for Kim to show me around for my first visit of Hanoi. My first impressions were mixed a very crowded city with a lot of noise and motorcycles everywhere! In the absence of traffic lights it looked as if they were driving in a random manner without any rules! Kim told me that the first thing I should learn, in order to survive, is how to cross the streets. He had many years of experience and was a good teacher since, somewhat to my surprise; I survived my stay in Hanoi.
We were lucky the weather was fine for discovering the city by foot. After a while I needed some rest and if by all means possible an expresso. To my surprise Kim said: no problem I can fix that!
Our hotel was not far away from the Opera, an impressive building opened in 1911. Hanoi must have been a very rich city for having such a luxury opera. Next to the opera was Highlands Coffee an open air coffee shop. While we were enjoying an excellent expresso I relaxed and started to look different to the city. The traffic wasn’t random anymore there must be rules, tough I didn’t know which, but the absence of accidents proved their existence. My mixed feelings slowly drifted away and I felt that this town had some magic charm.
We then walked along the Hoan Kiem Lake and arrived at the Đền Ngọc Sơn Temple built during the XV century. Đền Ngọc Sơn means the Jade Mountain Temple ( nowadays Chinese is written from left to right 玉山祠yùshāncí literally Jade mountain ancestral Temple) and is situated on a small island in the northern part of the lake. This temple is dedicated to Confucian and Taoist spirits, as well as to the national hero Tran Hung Dao.
Trần Hưng Đạo (陳國
峻 in chinese chénguójùn), (1228–1300) was the Supreme Commander of Vietnam during the Trần Dynasty and commanded the Đại Việt armies that repelled three major Mongol invasions in the 13th century.
The first gate is composed of two large columns.
Just after passing the first gate at the left is the Pen Tower (Thap But), a stone structure representing a writing brush, standing on a “mountain” and pointing to the sky. The mountain is a symbol of the Earth. On the tower is written “Writing on the clear blue sky” 寫青天 (meaning always be truthful) which emphasizes that the Temple is dedicated to literature and poetry.
There is a small altar at the right of the Tower where one can make an offer before entering the Temple.
The second gate is surrounded by Taoist symbols. On the left is the tiger. On the right is the Vietnamese dragon. The tiger and the dragon are the symbols of stability for a large construction, following the feng shui theory.
After having crossed a number of gates we arrived at a red-painted bridge called “The Huc Bridge” leading to the temple itself.
The Temple is rather small, inside are many Taoist symbols and deities.
To the left of the Temple is shown a preserved body of a giant soft backed turtle. This turtle is 2.1 meters long, 1.2 meters wide, and weighed 250kg.
It was found in 1968 and was said to be 500 years old.