Guidebook A city that once shook through wartime


A city that once shook through wartime

The “American war” remains an “intrinsic part of Vietnam's history,” writes Sarah Wall at Stuff, but Hanoi’s residents are “keen to look to the future.” Hanoi has “numerous museums and historic sites” worth visiting if “you're interested in the years of conflict” -- a small monument on the edge of Truc Bach Lake where US Senator John McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, the remains of Hoa Lo Prison, “where McCain was a prisoner of war for more than five years.” And the Vietnam Military Museum has “several rooms of photographs and documentation relating to the wars the country has been involved in,” while a large area outside “provides a resting place for wartime tanks and aircraft.”      

As an American living in Hanoi “I rarely hear the conflict discussed,” writes Elisabeth Rosen at The Atlantic. While Kham Thien Street “bustles with motorbikes and shops selling clothing and iPhones,” there’s little evidence that “some 2,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 300 people killed nearby during the 1972 ‘Christmas bombing,’ the heaviest bombardment of the war, ordered by the Nixon administration to force the North to negotiate an end to the conflict.”  

“For anyone who grew up with the vivid, daily TV image of the Vietnam War,” writes Laurie Werner at Forbes, ”the thought of going to Hanoi still carries an element of unease.” The North Vietnamese capital had “such an ominous image as the home of the US Army’s enemy that that image lingers still.” But today, when you do come face to face with “intense physical reminders of that history,” that’s quickly offset by the city’s “gorgeous French Colonial architecture and a panoply of exquisite culinary experiences, from elegant to street food.”  

A “dark, damp and eerie” shelter consisting of a “long corridor and four small rooms,” explains David Lamb at The Los Angeles Times. That’s the underground concrete bunker at The Metropole, “Hanoi’s legendary colonial hotel built in 1901.” The hotel runs daily tours of the subterranean chambers where “guests, staff and anti-war activists such as Joan Baez and Jane Fonda sought safety from US air raids” during the Vietnam War. The bomb shelter, 12 feet beneath the surface and equipped with ventilation, was “sealed and buried after the war,” then “discovered accidentally” in 2012 when engineers “struck concrete while digging during the reconstruction of the hotel’s Bamboo Bar.”  

The “Hanoi Hilton” housed “a century of torture within its walls,” writes Atlas Obscura. Although it contained a special section for prisoners of war during the “American War” -- and was where US Senator John McCain taken with “a broken knee, among other injuries,” the bulk of the remaining historic prison is “preserved as a museum” that focuses on the French Colonial period. And because the Vietnamese government maintains that reports of POW torture during the Vietnam War are “fabrications,” notes Atlas Obscura, the exhibit from this era shows photos of American prisoners “living a comfortable life: playing chess, raising chickens, etc.”    

Then there’s Time, which “carefully balances being a themed cafe without becoming a museum,” says Hanoi Hideaway. This “classic wartime-themed cafe” contains “plenty of classic communist memorabilia,” but without any “unneeded blackout curtains or thick layers of dust on every surface.” And it’s “jam-packed with vintage clutter, including old televisions, radios, clocks, lanterns and teapots.”

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