Shark’s Jaw Square in Hà Nội - Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục Square

Fountain at dawn The area at the head of Hoàn Kiếm Lake, in the centre of Hà Nội, is fondly known as Shark’s Jaw Square after the shape of the building which dominates it - seen here to the right The square when calm Early in the day the traffic is calm, with space for all The more formal name for this area is Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục Square. But that is a bit of a mouthful for most foreigners and the jutting open mouthed look of the building inspired its pet name. This is the point in the whole of Vietnam best known to travellers and Vietnamese alike. Shark's Jaw as Liner A shark's jaw maybe, but in the dark the block looms like a parked liner Fountain and square The fountain, so attractive here at dawn, is rarely switched on School run A child yawns on the school run - Hà Nội style Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục translates as Hà Nội Free School. More literally it is formed from an older name (from before the French invasion) for Hà Nội - Đông Kinh - followed by ‘charitable’, then a word for the idea of ‘having been trained’. The reason for the name is to commemorate the ‘Tonkin Free School’ which was set up in 1907 with the rather grand ambition of reforming Vietnamese society. This was at the height of the French occupation. It sought to introduce people to ideas from the West and from Japan, and help them leave behind traditional Confucian beliefs. Accordingly they supported the more general adoption of Roman script which till then was little used; it would be another 50 years before China offered its readers the transliteration facility of Pinyin. West side of square The view down the west side of the square Hawker with ginger Ginger and shallot hawker, and beyond the trees fringe the Lake... At dawn the square is peaceful, frequented by those seeking the quiet of the Lake in the cool of the morning. However, by 7.30 the bustle and traffic dominate, as they will for the rest of the day. The Thê Húc Bridge at dawn ...and this is the view from under those trees, of the famous Thê Húc Bridge at dawn The bustle of the normal daytime traffic is nothing compared to the thousands that descend on the area after dark, and this invasion is magnified to tens of thousands on special occasions. Christmas Eve 2009 Christmas Eve 2009 Balloon seller A balloon seller almost submerged Children, as always in Vietnam, are part of the scene - although adults, such as myself, are not averse to buying balloons. Christmas Eve 2006 Christmas Eve 2006
(similar to 2009 but NHABECO was not on the building)
Children in car A few cars persevere offering a special view As ever in Vietnam food sales are present, here the hawkers find a few inches between the traffic and the pedestrians to set up their stalls. Fruit sales Fruit stalls squeeze between traffic and people Bread stall Newly baked bread accompanies an evening stroll Crowds at night It is always a wonder, in such crowded places, that physical contact is very rare The Night Market Here, on the north edge of the square, the night market starts The Square at night

The square comes into its own at night. At best chaotic, it is watched over by security personnel who add to the soundscape with their whistles, but do little else. As a background there is the allure of the trees, behind which sits the calm of the Lake. At the square's centre the buzz of the international cafes, from the balconies of which can be seen the lights of the town stretching away for miles in all directions. And in this image, that constant delight of Hà Nội, the bemused foreigner, unsure of his passage to the Lake on the far side of the mêlée.
The next page moves a few hundred yards to the south along beside Hoàn Kiếm Lake to Lý Thái Tổ Square, an area which allows performances and outdoor exhibitions in central Hà Nội. Dawn by Ly Thai To Square. line
Saturday 26th March 2016 Murphy

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