Reflections of Hanoi

TN News

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Earlier this month, foreign reporters in Singapore were invited to visit the Universal Studios theme park on Sentosa Island of Singapore.

After a walking around the grandiose, colorful and man-made park, a German correspondent told me "They have chopped down all the trees on this beautiful island and replaced them with huge plants made of plastic."

"Of all the places I've been Asia, Hanoi is my favorite destination," he said.

In the 11 years he has covered the Asia-Pacific region from Singapore, this journalist has been to Vietnam tens of times, traveling all over and sampling a bit of what each major region has to offer. And he loves Hanoi.

Many foreigners have told me the same thing. They all express their love for Hanoi, whether they've lived there for ages or just visited a few times.

Christina Pantin, head of the Reuters Southeast Asia and Pacific bureau in Singapore, used to head the Reuters office in Hanoi and she can talk about the capital for hours.

During her 23 years at Reuters offices around the world, Christina said her stay in Hanoi was the best time of her life.

Manfred Rist, who has lived in Singapore for 9 years covering Southeast Asia for Neue Ziircher Zeitong, one of the oldest newspapers in Switzerland, shares the same feelings for Hanoi.

Rist said he had been to Vietnam several times and if he had a choice, he would live in Hanoi.

I've asked all these people what it is that they love about our capital city. The answer is its peacefulness and the picturesque quality of the natural lakes, simple French-colonial architecture and the mossy traditional Vietnamese houses.

However, they are also disappointed to see the increasing number of high rise buildings being built around Sword Lake, one of Vietnam's most important historic landmarks located right in the heart of Hanoi.

Christina said she felt like something quite precious was disappearing each morning when she woke up and saw a new building fortifying the lake.

Henrique Calisto, coach of the Vietnam National Football team, said it was sad that so many old buildings had been destroyed in the name of modernity.

Standing on the 72nd floor of a skyscraper in Singapore and looking over the modern and green landscape of the city state, Calisto said, "This [kind of view] can be found around the world."

It's easy to understand these opinions. The intellectual and scientific achievements of modernity cannot stop us from missing the gentler, simpler and more natural societies we have lost forever.

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