If you’re interested in seeking a really good understanding of the heritage and culture of Vietnam while in Hanoi, check out Friends of Vietnam Heritage (FHV), a non-profit group that holds interesting events and publishes books on intriguing topics.
Run by locals and foreigners living in Hanoi, FHV aims to enhance and deepen people’s understanding of Vietnamese culture. How do they do this?
City walks are conducted by volunteers who have a profound interest in the subject matter they cover and cover areas such as Hoan Kiem Lake, along Lan Ong Street (for traditional medicine) and through the Dong Xuan market area. Visitors are introduced to some of the more, and less, common sights of Hanoi with well-informed commentary. Although many tour companies offer walks around these areas, FVH really gets into the details and so will suit those with a quest for knowledge: each walk we’ve been on has left us with a good few “Did you know…?” facts. The walks each last two to three and cost 70,000 VND per person.
The downside is that they are not very regular, so the chances of a walk you are interested in occurring during your stay is quite low, but you can contact FVH if you have a particular interest and book a private tour for 500,000 VND per hour if you’re keen. Excursions out of Hanoi are also organised, usually just once a month, to places such as the craft villages.
Other activities include film nights at Cinemateque, which often have the film’s director in attendance for a Q&A, lectures at various locations, courses on traditional medicine and visits to music performances both in the city and the surrounding villages. The calendar of events can be found on their website.
If you simply want to know more about Vietnam’s heritage and culture, the FVH publications are well worth a read. In a succinct, easily digestible format, the books cover subjects such as Bach Ba Temple, Bat Trang pottery village, walks around West Lake and a self-guided walking tour of the Temple of Literature. They are researched, written and illustrated by a group of volunteers and are are available at Bookworm on Chau Long Street.
The really keen can visit the FVH resources centre at Hanoi City Library, 4th floor, 47 Ba Trieu Street. It’ll cost you a small fee to get a reader’s card — take your passport — but after that you can access the library of books and journals at any time during opening hours.
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