Hanoi, Vietnam

Round the World

For as new and shiny and modern as Saigon is, Hanoi wears its age gracefully. The elaborate labyrinth of tree-lined alleys that make up the city are lined with decaying colonial townhouses. Yellow stucco facades are chipped and faded, wrought-iron balconies are rusting away, and the few olive green shutters that remain are askew. Wandering those narrow streets, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories the buildings could tell.

What was sold from their storefronts before knockoff North Face jackets and souvenirs? How did life change for their inhabitants as control over the city was passed from the French to the Viet Minh, and then the unified Vietnamese? What was it like to live within those four walls when Hanoi was the capital of a government at war with the West, and how did life change as the country slipped into poverty in the decades that followed? How does one…

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