Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Travel: Hanoi Day #2 - Temple of Literature, Dong Da, Hanoi

So after covering the Military History Museum, we had one more sightseeing spot to cover - the Temple of Literature! By then, we were kind of running late and didn't have much time because the Temple of Literature closes its grounds to public at 5pm. Plus, since we weren't entirely sure of directions, we had to hustle a bit faster than normal :D

This guy was trying to impress the girl in pink on the right.. too bad she barely looked up :p

We walked through this park opposite the Military History Museum which was a nice experience. Unlike the Old Quarter district which is a cramped and narrow place like Petaling Street and Chinatown, Ba Dinh & Dong Da has wider roads and larger open spaces. It was really nice to see the locals both old and young just taking their own time in a large public space like this. We really lack this kind of thing in Malaysia we think.. =)

Ah yes, let's not forget other quirky things in Hanoi. Like who said traffic lights always have to be a round light?! Crosses are perfectly acceptable too. =D

I think I've probably mentioned in a previous post about how the only map of Hanoi didn't look very trustworthy, but it turned out to be quite accurate, seeing as we managed to navigate even the tiny lanes on our way to the temple.

We were a little unlucky because the temple and university covers spans a large 54000 sq metres, and is entirely walled with only one entrance. We were coming from the opposite direction so had to walk all the way to the other end just to get in! By the time we got to the entrance we only had about an hour before closing time. There was a sign offering services of English tour guides but there were none available for the rest of the day. 

This landmark complex was constructed wayyyyyy back in 1070 as a means to honour Confucius. Six year later in 1076, King Ly Nhan Tong continued the work and built Quốc Tử Giám or the Imperial Academy within this temple grounds, thus establishing the first university of Vietnam for educating royalty or the offspring of other noble families.

With its rich history in education, it's no surprise that young Hanoi students still flock here to pray before an important university exam or to take their graduation pictures. It's quite a nice sight, seeing them all decked out in traditional Vietnamese gear. :D

The temple grounds are divided into five different courtyards, a mixture of serene greenery and impressive architecture and cravings, like this pagoda above.

Once you pass that pagoda, you'll be entering the third courtyard, and one we found particularly interesting. They call this the Well of Heavenly Clarity (which well, was rather murky and not clear at all actually HAHA -- I guess they don't mean it literally) and beside that there rows of stone tortoises that bear scholars' names, places of birth and achievements during the royal exams held during the Le Dynasty.

Of course, over the test of time, some of the older stone tortoises don't even look like tortoises anymore and the writing has grown to be very faint. Tortoises were chosen because of longevity though, and apparently is one of the creatures that Vietnam deems precious. Some come to rub the tortoises' heads for good luck before exams too!

The fourth courtyard is a large pavilion, undoubted spruced up in recent years by nicely cultivated bonsai plants. One of the things that made this an enjoyable visit was the sheer size of it. There are other tourists and locals but you could still take your time and wander around without needing to worry about getting into anyone's way. 

It's also where all the souvenir shops are... which we found quite surprising. We would have thought they would have kept the grounds free of shops or anything of the sort and keep the souvenir shopping outside the grounds. 

You'll see lots of chinese characters on the wall, and in calligraphy in Vietnam

The last courtyard was also the most quiet. We're not sure if it was because it was already late in the day or because it was used more of a place to pray, but we did see one or two local women praying quietly so we didn't want to intrude for long.

Burning joss sticks that quickly became a favourite photo spot for many tourists

The Temple of Literature is a nice spot to visit and to bask in nearly 1000-year old history, but it also was an especially nice escape from the noisy, busy streets of Hanoi. It was only after we had left, that we realized just how peaceful and quiet the place was! Those walls really keep the noise out, and there's no dodging motorists or honks in there.

It's about a 15 to 20 min walk from the Military History Museum, in Ba Dinh, but probably just approximately a 10 minute cab ride away from the Old Quarter. Many reviews recommend hiring guides to take you through the history, but since we couldn't have that luxury, we'll let you decide that for yourselves. :)

Temple of Literature
Entrance on Quoc Tu Giang St,
Dong Da, Hanoi
Admission Fee: 10,000 VND / RM 1.50 / USD 0.50
Opening Hours: Daily, 8am-5pm
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