Friday, 16 May 2014

Hanoi Day One: Visiting the Trấn Quốc Pagoda (Chùa Trấn Quốc)

My family and I - all four of us - came back two days ago from a vacation in Hanoi. It has been such a long while since we have been on holiday together: not since my daughter started working in Kuala Lumpur and my son began on his tertiary education.

But with him finishing his studies, this was a perfect time for all of us to take off together before he finds a job. When he starts working, it may not be so easy for us to vacation as a family unit again. Anyway, we were supposed to go on a family trip during the Chinese New Year stretch of holidays in February but my hospitalisation had meant that it had to be postponed.

So there we were, on the ninth of May morning, jetting off to Hanoi on an AirAsia flight. We landed at their Noi Bai international airport slightly before nine o'clock in the morning, Vietnamese time, and were met by our tour guide.

First stop of the day was at the Chùa Trấn Quốc (鎭國寺) (Trấn Quốc Pagoda) on their Hồ Tây (West Lake). We were told that the Tran Quoc Pagoda was built in the sixth century, thus making it the oldest pagoda in Hanoi. The original location was beside the Red River but due to erosion of the river bank, the pagoda was moved to its present location on a small islet on the West Lake.

A small causeway links the islet to the mainland. When we arrived in Hanoi, the capital was in the midst of celebrating Wesak, thus all the Wesak flags were out on display everywhere in temples.

The famous pagoda 

Suddenly, I found my path blocked by this group of monks and devotees who were just about to begin their prayer session. Sensing that it could go on for quite a while, I had to pick my way gingerly through the crowd to get out of the chamber.

One of our rare family pictures in Hanoi.

An angler trying his luck at the lake. We didn't stop to see how successful he was.

And finally, this was the first of many pictures we took of everyday life in Hanoi. Small-time traders plying their wares to foreign and local tourists visiting the pagoda.

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