A city called Hanoise pt 2 – The skinny Vietnamese. Days 1-3

In the short time that I spent in Vietnam, I observed that there wasn’t a single fat Vietnamese to be found. Well, the Viets are, after all, quite an industrious lot — a mostly agrarian society that gleans a hard life out of its fertile ground. Generally, the people that I’ve seen are lean and scraggy but, I was more intrigued by another equally emaciated icon — Vietnamese buildings.

Quirky by most Asian standards, Vietnamese buildings tend to compensate for their constricted girths by going deep and tall instead. So what kept them from going wide? A little research yielded some very interesting facts.

Back in the old days, the original buildings were little more than hovels and makeshift stalls. Once they laid claim to the piece of land, they just stayed put…and so did everyone else. And as they prospered, and families grew bigger, the only way to house them all was simply to build up and in.

I suspect it became part of the Vietnames culture after a while. Thin is in. But then, so were the gaudy, heady colours that they were sometimes swathed in. They’ve learnt how make kitsch kitsch-ier still … like this one here, with its purple eyesore of a paintwork complemented by Roman columns (you would almost expect to see a statue of a cherubim peeing into a pond inside). But … who am I to judge another’s taste?

Next: The delicious streets of Hanoi…

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