Monday, December 10, 2012

Van Mieu - The Temple of Literature - Hanoi

My favourite place in all of Hanoi is Van Mieu, the medieval Confucian University.

Yes, I know it is something of a tourist hell-hole these days (in fact, I write about it in Destination Saigon), but despite the crowds of tourists and the ever more obnoxious guides, I still love just slouching about the grounds of this exquisite building.

The first time I ever went there, back in 1994, Hanoi was still largely unvisited, and the Temple of Literature was absolutely decrepit. Even then, though, it had incredible charm. The morning we first visited there was no-one else at all in the place, apart from a few sad-faced souvenir sales-girls and a man cleaning the toilets. It seems hard to believe now, when hundreds must stream through every day.

Still, I think there's no better place to go on a grey, rainy Hanoi morning. The last time I went the gardens were filled with schoolgirls reading Chicken Soup for the Soul in Vietnamese. Which is exactly what I'd be doing if I was in their shoes.

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