The People's Republic of
Vietnam


Tour 1: Hanoi

I visited Hanoi on the Thin Red Line tour. You should read that in the first instance. I will say this, though, I found Hanoi the least hospitable part of Vietnam. Particulary, the government seemed obsessive compulsive, besides bureaucratic. One I took few pictures here relates to the fact that every corner seemed to contain soldiers, armed with machine guns, observing my movements.



The Vietnamese National Anthem


Viet Nam (March to the Front)

Original French Words:

Soldats vietnamiens, nous allons de l'avant,
Mus par une même volonté sauver la patrie.
Nos pas redoublés sonnent sur la route longue et rude.
Notre drapeau, rouge du sang de la victoire,
porte l'âme de la nation.

Le lointain grondement des canons rythme
les accents de notre marche.
Le chemin de la gloire
se pave de cadavres ennemis.

Triomphant des difficultés, ensemble,
nous édifions nos bases de résistance.
Jurons de lutter sans rêpit
pour la cause du peuple.
Courons vers le champ de bataille!

En avant! Tous ensemble, en avant!
Notre patrie vietnamienne est solide et durable.

Soldats vietnamiens, l'etoile d'or au vent
Conduisant notre peuple et notre patrie
hors de la misère et des souffrances.
Unissons nos efforts dans la lutte
pour l'édification de la vie nouvelle.
Debout! d'un même élan, rompons nos fers!

Depuis si longtemps,
nous avons contenu notre haine!
Soyons prêts à tous les sacrifices
et notre vie sera radieuse.
Jurons de lutter sans rêpit
pour la cause du peuple.
Courons vers le champ de bataille!

En avant! Tous ensemble, en avant!
Notre patrie vietnamienne est solide et durable.

English*:

Soldiers of Vietnam, we go forward,
With the one will to save our Fatherland,
Our hurried steps are sounding
on the long and arduous road.

Our flag, red with the blood of victory,
bears the spirit of our country.
The distant rumbling of the guns
mingles with our marching song.
The path to glory passes
over the bodies of our foes.

Overcoming all hardships,
together we build our resistance bases.
Ceaselessly for the people's cause
let us struggle,
Let us hasten to the battlefield!
Forward! All together advancing!

Our Vietnam is strong, eternal.
Soldiers of Vietnam, we go forward!

The gold star of our flag in the wind
Leading our people, our native land,
out of misery and suffering.

Let us join our efforts in the fight
for the building of a new life.
Let us stand up and break our chains.
For too long have we swallowed our hatred.

Let us keep ready for all sacrifices
and our life will be radiant.
Ceaselessly for the people's cause
let us struggle,
Let us hasten to the battlefield!
Forward! All together advancing!
Our Vietnam is strong, eternal.

*Refer back to this particularly martial anthem a couple of times as you review these web pages.


The North

Vietnamese culture and civilization begins in the Red River Valley. Though an area capable of intensive agriculture, the Red can, by no means, support the kind of population currently living in the People's Republic.

One of the best books on Vietnamese history, calls Vietnam "the Lesser Dragon." The North, more than the South, felt the healing and hurting hand of "The Greater Dragon," China, which relentlessly tried to incorporate the Red River Valley into its empire. Effectively, northern Vietnam offers no defensible frontiers against China other than the river itself. Under the strongest Chinese emperors, this pressure led to actual rule, each time eventually repulsed by the Vietnamese. Ironically, though, the great Chinese dynasties, the Han, the Tang, the Sung, also provided the cultural inspiration for most of Vietnam's advancement.

China in the north and population pressure, then, led to a constant movement to the south and, eventually, the southeast, areas of less resistance. Inevitably, the most adventurous, the toughest, and the outcasts left the relatively known, but regimented controlled, life of the valleys to face the Chams, the hill tribes, and, eventually, the Khmers and Thais.

They left behind the conformists, the least imaginative, and most Chinese influenced. As a result, northern Vietnam today maintains a tight control over its own population, guided, of course, by Ho Chi Minh Communism, but directly descended from the neo-Confucianism of the last emperors and colored by the omnipresent need to face a stronger enemy, whether Chinese, French, or American.

Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh) logically fits into this as a patriot and ideologue. During the Second World War, he fought on the American side, and actually obtained US military assistance. Ho, however, freely changed sides and even philosophies in his single-minded goal to restore Vietnamese independence and unity. In this context, one can think of him as a Western patriot or, indeed, the Mandarin for a new Vietnamese dynasty.



Hanoi

Hanoi reminded me of a city under siege even seventeen years after the war, and, yet, this somehow fits the north. The French influence on Hanoi seems confined to nice parks, decaying French architecture, and an induced fondness for French cultural product, but not French romance.



Vietnam

Hanoi

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HANOI
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The tourist agency insisted I had to stay at this over-priced hotel. For that price, I took a picture of the room. Notice the obligatory tea set.

Ho's museum contain a history of Ho as well as
samples of his often self-contradictory tomes.

Who's buried in Ho's Tomb?

Here Communist art ruins a nice lakeside scene.

The military museum shows a MIG resting on the remains of a B-52. In reality, though, most of the museum concerns unending wars with China, and not the United States.

Related Vietnamese Tours:
Back to Tour 3: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Cholon
On to Tour 2: Danang and Hue

Other Links:
Read The Thin Red Line.
Back to Virtual Tours
Back to Fruit Home