For Songkran a few weeks back, we decided to head over to Hanoi to visit the northerly Vietnamese World Heritage Sites, and first on that list is, in fact, right in the middle of downtown Hanoi a few minutes’ taxi from the famous Old Quarter:
The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long — Hanoi, located in the heart of the capital of Viet Nam, is the most important and best-preserved part of the ancient Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.
The Thang Long Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Vietnamese Ly Dynasty, marking the independence of the Đại Việt. It was built on the remains of a Chinese fortress dating from the 7th century, on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi. It was the centre of regional political power for almost thirteen centuries without interruption.
The buildings of the Imperial Citadel and the remains in the 18 Hoang Diêu Archaeological Site reflect a unique South-East Asian culture specific to the lower Red River Valley, at the crossroads of influences coming from China in the north and the ancient Kingdom of Champa in the south.
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is characterized by its longevity and continuity as a seat of power, evidenced by different archaeological levels and monuments…
Thirteen centuries without interruption? That’s a good run!
And how solidly was this citadel built, you ask? Why, so solidly that part of the exhibition areas are the underground chambers that were referred to as Hanoi Citadel when during the Vietnam War North Vietnamese military command under General Giap had its headquarters there, apparently this being the soundest construction in Hanoi.
Don’t actually think we’ve visited any other World Heritage Site, if indeed there are any others, that was the underground headquarters of a national military within living memory — a testament to sound engineering if ever there was one!
Across the road from the tourist section are ongoing archaeological excavations you can wander through as well, and there’s a good number of supporting exhibits to make sense of it all.
And as you often find in ruins in Southeast Asia, there’s still active worship taking place here — where you can definitely see the Chinese fusion with the local culture:
So when you happen to be going through Hanoi, chances are you’ll be staying in the Old Quarter — and we have a budget recommendation for that coming up next — just minutes away, so set aside a couple of hours to pop over here to check it out!