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French Legacies

 

Wide tree lined streets are a blessing in the summer heat.
Wide tree lined streets are a blessing in the summer heat.

The French took over Vietnam as early as 1859, the French has influenced different aspects of who Vietnam and the Vietnamese are today, so much has been integrated into their own culture and country.  The easiest forms we see is the wide tree lined streets, monumental buildings, the Hoan

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WOW – this is a footpath !! White paint on the trees for insect protection.

Kiem Lake we see today; are all legacies left by the French, but there is much much more when we scratch the surface.  Architectural features and design reflecting French style are not only in the older buildings but also the new builds.

Architecture

Hanoi Opera House - 1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi, Vietnam. Built between 1901 and 1911 by the French Colonial Administration. When in Hanoi, book into a concert.
Hanoi Opera House – 1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi, Vietnam. Built between 1901 and 1911 by the French Colonial Administration. When in Hanoi, book into a concert.

Town Planning

The whole Hoan Kiem Lake area was developed by the French.
The whole Hoan Kiem Lake area was developed by the French including building styles as seen today

As Hanoi was originally a swampy area, catching malaria was a serious health risk to the new comers.  Also the French liked things more organized, they were used to Paris so wanted something similar to home, over time huge improvements were made to the city.  Of course at a huge cost as the local Vietnamese who got evicted from their homes and important sites were destroyed.

From 1886 the French Colonial Administration contained and defined Hoan Kiem Lake, cleared the whole area surrounding the lake, the mini lakes in the surrounding areas got filled in, drainage systems put in place, large open roads were built for easy access by horse and carriage, trees and gardens were planted and large governmental buildings were built as part of their planned city.

 

Language – Written Language

Vietnam Military History Museum, Hanoi - many signs boards still contain the French translation.
Vietnam Military History Museum, Hanoi – many signs boards still contain the French translation.

Quoc Nu was instigated by the French; this Romanized script is what Vietnamese use today.  It was developed by the French and is said to have had the greatest impact on modernization.  I am sure there must have been resistance to learning a new writing style to conform to the foreign controllers; but this became the common language in official documents and was taught at schools from the early 1900’s.

The advantages to the Vietnamese is it was easier to learn, illiteracy had been common due to complexities of the Chinese language in the written form.  This new way opened the door to a more educated society and a greater awareness to European cultures, philosophy, political ideals etc.

French Language

Well dressed elegant Vietnamese man wears a beret.
Well dressed elegant Vietnamese man wears a beret. One of my most beautiful photos !

I am always amazed when older men in their 70’s ask me in French, if I speak French.  In 1903 a compulsory test was given to all boys and girls before they attended school.  Young French-educated Vietnamese not only spoke French fluently but were also exposed to Western ideals, ways of thinking and a completely different life style.

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In restaurants it is still common to see the menu is 2 or 3 different languages (French, Vietnamese and English).

Cafes

Paris Deli - a great selection of cakes and pasteries plus main meals - 13 Church Street (13 Pho Nga Tho), Hanoi - near the Cathedral.
Paris Deli – a great selection of cakes and pasteries plus main meals – 13 Church Street (13 Pho Nga Tho), Hanoi – near the Cathedral.
Upstairs at Paris Deli.
Upstairs at Paris Deli.

Food

Pressed meats, pates, salamis and smoked chicken displayed at grocer at 17-19 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hanoi (2010).
Pressed meats, pates, salamis and smoked chicken displayed at grocer at 17-19 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hanoi (2010).
Fresh french bread is readily available on the streets of Hanoi. often still hot, as kept warm in small charcoal powered ovens.
Fresh french bread is readily available on the streets of Hanoi. often still hot, as kept warm in small charcoal powered ovens.

 

French bread, croissants, and delicious cakes all are famous in Hanoi, have their origins from the French.  As well as cold meat cuts.

Frog is widely eaten in Vietnam
Frog is widely eaten in Vietnam

Fog or Frog, most are priced at usd$2.62 for a dish in many local Vietnamese restaurants in the Old Quarter in Hanoi.
Fog or Frog, most are priced at usd$2.62 for a dish in many local Vietnamese restaurants in the Old Quarter in Hanoi.

Drinks

Believe it or not the French introduced coffee to Vietnam. Vietnam's famous Cafe Sua Da - Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk.
Believe it or not the French introduced coffee to Vietnam. Vietnam’s famous Cafe Sua Da – Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk.
Rich caffine powered Vietnamese Coffee Beans
Rich caffeine powered Vietnamese Coffee Beans

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