There’s no place like home

Out­look re­porters Thu Höông and Thanh An talk to a range of Hanoians about the chang­ing face of the cap­i­tal city and the unique charm that makes this place so spe­cial.

Outlook - - FACES -

Nguyeãn Quang Phuøng, 82, pho­tog­ra­pher

My love for Haø Noäi, my dear home­town, has al­ways re­mained unswayed and un­bro­ken. Haø Noäi, and es­pe­cially for Sword Lake, has en­cour­aged me to re­sist all the temp­ta­tions and lux­u­ries in life and stay in the city.

I started pho­tograph­ing Haø Noäi in 1954, and one year later, I fin­ished my first port­fo­lio, tak­ing pho­tos of the cap­i­tal’s lib­er­a­tion. Since then, I have taken pho­tos of the city and noth­ing else and my lens has cap­tured all the changes over time.

I still re­mem­ber the old days, when I was a small boy, be­ing led to Sword Lake by my par­ents. It was such an ad­ven­ture, open­ing in front of my very eyes a new door to life. At that time, there were plenty of trees sur­round­ing the lake. There used to be just a path around the lake and wild grass grew into the wa­ter, which helped to pu­rify it. The lake was so clean that I could catch shrimps hid­ing in the grass with a stick and a tiny string. Peo­ple and na­ture seemed to co-ex­ist peace­fully in har­mony.

Hold­ing a strong at­tach­ment to Sword Lake, it pains me to see the loss of all the an­cient trees. This is be­cause the roots of trees like banyans, have been cut away to make pave­ments, so many trees have fallen down af­ter strong winds. Then, hun­dreds of neon lights were in­stalled, dis­turb­ing the trees as they slept at night.

I'm 82 now, and ap­proach­ing the end of my life, so I tend to get nos­tal­gic about the old mem­o­ries. Th­ese high-rise con­crete build­ings will never re­main deep in a Hanoian's mem­ory and mod­ern life, at times sad­dens many peo­ple. The say­ing, "how can we get back to the old days", seems a strange thing to say, but it has be­come very per­ti­nent. We could never have imag­ined that Sword Lake, which used to be very clean, could have be­come so pol­luted like it is to­day.

With­out mem­o­ries, with­out an in­ner feel­ing, a pho­tog­ra­pher could not be in­spired by the changes to Haø Noäi and the en­vi­ron­ment around Sword Lake. But I have never got tired of tak­ing pho­tos of the city, my end­less in­spi­ra­tion. I have al­ways hoped that my pho­to­graphic col­lec­tions of Haø Noäi will be val­ued by my descen­dants af­ter I pass away, so they can trea­sure Haø Noäi and take more ac­tion to pre­serve its beauty.

Phan Myõ Anh, 25, sales as­sis­tant, Vieät Nam Huawei Tech­nol­ogy Com­pany:

I was born in Haø Noäi at the start of the coun­try’s ñoåi môùi (re­newal) process, so all the things I have learnt about the city have known from my grand­par­ents and fam­ily. I was told that an­cient Haø Noäi's to­tal area was very small, with traders and craft­men only oc­cu­py­ing 36 streets.

In this area, the name of the streets started with Haøng, which when trans­lated into English sim­ply means shop or store. In­ter­est­ing, isn't it? The name also says that older Haø Noäi peo­ple love to trade amongst each other. They made their liveli­hoods in the places they were born. Once you be­gin to run a busi­ness from home, cus­tomer loy­alty and the qual­ity of your prod­uct's must come above ev­ery­thing else. There­fore, if you want to eat some­where or go and buy any­thing, you al­ways know where you can go.

For in­stance, Haøng Ñaøo Street is fa­mous for sell­ing silk; Haøng Baïc is where you can find fine sil­ver jewellery, and Haøng Buùn, Haøng Haønh, Haøng Maém streets are where many foods are sold.

Older Hanoians fo­cus on qual­ity and tra­di­tional ex­per­tise. It in­deed re­flects on all as­pects of life such as why the houses only have one to two floors, with

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