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.
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