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Phan Đình Phùng, Nam Định, Nam Dinh, Vietnam
Staying in Hanoi for a week made me realize that there are so many ways to preserve culture, tradition, architecture, and even road networks. I have been to almost all the major cities in Asia and have seen how each has developed to adapt to the contemporary needs of their people; I have also come to realize that in the process of adapting, the Spirit of Place tends to fade away or get isolated. 

Let me take Manila, for instance, if you want to learn about History, you would have to visit Intramuros and the National Museum to understand more about the History and Ethnicity of Manila or the Philippines. Case in point, most areas in Manila have become so urban that there is little to no trace of what it used to be. There seems to be an ongoing battle between development and preservation around the world - a battle to preserve old towns and apply contemporary life within that place, it is a challenge that I look forward to being solved in the near future.
But Hanoi is such a different case, at least for me. Everywhere you go, you would see traces of both Vietnamese and Indochine influence in their way of life, architecture, food, traffic ethics, and so much more. It makes walking around this city an interactive learning experience where the learner gets to see, hear, smell, and feel the place as it is and for me, this is the best way to travel and immerse yourself.
If ever you decide to travel to this beautiful city, be open to the idea of walking a lot. Hanoi is such a walkable city filled with paved sidewalks and lush stretch of trees enveloping the main roads. Walking definitely gave us a glimpse of the behavior of motorists - I have such admiration for the common courtesy between pedestrians and motorists. Nobody needs to shout or cut lanes, every driver regardless of what they drive had a demeanor of peace within them. It is a sight that I myself am not so used to growing up in a city where everyday driving and commute is a battle of patience and time. 

One of the things that you have to prepare for and adjust to would be the system of crossing streets in Hanoi as it could get overwhelming! I remember how much I panicked on our first day, every time we would cross the streets, there would always be a swarm of motorbikes coming from one direction to the other. But after a few encounters, you would realize that there is this unspoken rhythm and connection between you as the pedestrian and the motorists. The technique is very simple, just cross carefully without hesitating in the middle, they will cruise along with you. It's such a simple yet very beautiful thing to see, crossing the streets of Hanoi gave me this euphoria, it's felt like a scene from a movie where everything around you just passes by in slow motion.
Once you have walked and braved the busy streets and crossings of this quaint city, try to walk around the quiet alleyways and small streets. I was privileged enough to witness this beautiful encounter between the afternoon sunlight and the trees in one of the streets of the Old Quarter. It was such a beautiful and endearing sight to see, seeing the rays pierce through every vacant branch and leaves was comforting, to say the least. This is a common scene in this side of town but not everyone who visits as a tourist gets to witness this marvelous sight. It made my husband and I realize that sometimes, you would have to forego your planned route in order to see something more rewarding and unforgettable. To me, this is one of those unforgettable moments in Hanoi.
Aside from the small streets around the Old Quarter, another place I'd like to recommend would be the long stretch called Phan Dinh Phung. If you are coming to see the Ba Dinh area where the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Presidential Palace, National Assembly Building, and all other important Government offices are located, this stretch is definitely going to be one of your must-see areas as well. 
Dubbed as one of the most beautiful streets in Hanoi, Phan Dinh Phung street is home to a lot of institutional buildings and the beautiful Cua Bac Church.
 Designed by French Architect Ernest Hébrard and built in 1932, this Roman Catholic church is one of the three major Catholic churches in Hanoi along with the Ham Long Church and the St. Joseph Cathedral. The Architect designed the church along with the plans to redevelop the urban planning of Hanoi.
 Located at the Northern gate of the Ancient Hanoi Citadel, the Cua Bac Church is famous for the combination of Vietnamese, French Indochine, and Art Deco design elements in its Architecture. 
 Just by cruising along the lush stretch of Phan Dinh Phung, one would truly get a glimpse of how two cultures combine. Just by observing the motif of all the buildings surrounding the place - the red brick tiles for the roofing, decorated eaves, and some wooden elements mirror the Vietnamese style of Architecture and the grand entrances, lush gardens, arched windows, and doors, as well as the presence of Baroque Architecture, represent the influence of the French Indochina regime.
To be honest, there were a lot of things that I got to see and appreciate in Phan Dinh Phung but decided not to stress myself and document everything. At the end of the day, I have come to realize that there are just some things that have to be left undocumented for you to fully enjoy your trip. I would definitely say that Hanoi is that kind of place where urbanity and tradition still thrive equally through its landscape, its people, it's architecture and way of life and all you need to do is come and walk around to see what it has to show and tell you.
There's still a lot of things to tell you about Hanoi but I just wanted to sit down and write this particular entry to share how much this trip has taught me about how it is to truly enjoy and experience a place whenever you travel. It's really not about the content you post online nor the outfits that you wear, it's definitely more than just about seeing all the historical sites or famous landmarks. Hanoi made me realize that you have not truly enjoyed your travel if you have not seen how locals live, how a common day sounds and looks like, and how the simple textures and sights make you understand the place better and eventually love it like its was you own.

Enjoy and love the little things, that's how it makes everything beautiful.

Happy Heyday!


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