Historical Cultural Immersion (Group 3)

Historical Cultural immersion between the French and Vietnamese (The French Quarter)

The 'Ba Dinh' District or as it is more formally called the 'French Quarter'(Khu phố Pháp) is the political center of Vietnam. It is home to most government offices and embassies. It is also home to many different types of architecture and has many monuments from the French Colonial Project, the first in Vietnam. The French Quarter was first formed in 1875 after the French first occupied Hanoi.

Hanoi Opera House

An example of Colonial Architecture include the Hanoi Opera House which incorporates the grand Napoleonic Style of Architecture. It was essentially a smaller scaled version of the Paris Opera House and it was completed in 1911.

The St Joseph's Cathedral 

St Joseph's Cathedral is another example of colonial architecture. It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral built in a neo-gothic style. It was built and completed by French missionaries in 1886. Today, it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi.

The History Museum in Hanoi

The History museum in Hanoi opened in 1932 and was home to the 'École Française d’Extrême Orient' in Vietnam. The structure of the museum incorporates a blend of Chinese and French designs.

There are many more structures in and around the French Quarter which incorporate many designs from the French and other colonial powers as well.

Other Influences from the French

Other influences have also impacted Vietnam. Especially the cuisine, such as when the French introduced baguettes to Vietnam, which were then combined with Vietnamese stuffing to become a very popular fast food in Vietnam named bánh mi, also known as 'Vietnamese sandwich'. The French also brought to Vietnam onions, cauliflower, lettuce, potatoes, tarragon, carrot, artichoke, asparagus, and coffee. Onions were called hành tây (literally 'Western shallots'), asparagus are called măng tây (literally 'Western bamboo shoots') and potatoes were called khoai tây (literally “Western yam”) in Vietnamese. French-influenced dishes are numerous and not limited to dishes such as, xà lách (salad), pâté, patê sô (Brittany pasty named "paté chaud), bánh sừng trâu (croissant), bánh flan, ya ua (yogurt), rôti (rotisserie), (butter), vịt nấu cam (duck à l'orange), ốp lết (omelet), ốp la (œufs au plat), phạc xi (farcies), bít tết (beefsteak), sốt vang (cooking with wine), dăm bông (jambon), xúc xích (saucisse).


  1. Day 5, 8th November 2012,
    Today we visited the mausoleum and the stilt house. At the mausoleum, I saw the preserved body of the late prime minister of Vietnam. This mausoleum is only opened to public today and yesterday. I did not quite like the trip there as it was crowded and we had to wait a long time before getting to actually see the body of the late prime minister which only took around 5 minutes. I my opinion they should open the mausoleum to the public for a longer period of time so it will be crowded. It is just my opinion though.During the trip to the mausoleum, there were many people who were complaining about how the system works, that includes me. I find that we should not critisize their culture as it is wrong. Afterwards, we went to the stilt house, I learned that the president used to only use a simple life in a stilt house instead of a luxurious life in a mansion. I find the humility of this president to be a great virtue that we all should learn from.

  2. Today we went to the French Quarters, which is the political center of Vietnam. At first, the line was very long and we kept moving behind due to reasons I did not know. But as we moved inch by inch, we were more intrigued about what was to come.
    As we entered the French Quarters, we came across many guards standing by the side, which made me think that this place was of extreme importance and strictness. It was, after all, the political area of Vietnam.
    Inside the French Quarters, we came across remains of an old ruler. They had somehow managed to illuminate the skin that was exposed, including the head. It made the ruler look somewhat divine.
    We came across the presidential palace later on, which was when we heard the prime minister of Russia was visiting. We learned that the president of Vietnam did not live in luxury like other presidents. Instead, he stayed in a very simple stilt house where below it he conducted meetings.
    This trip has taught me about the rulers of Vietnam and how they lived. It has made me realise that even at this important of a position, living a very simple life is still possible and has made me rethink my future.

  3. Today, we went to the mausoleum, the stilt house where Ho Chi Minh lived, the Presidential Palace, as well as temples nearby.
    At the mausoleum, my fellow group members were complaining about the long wait to see the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh himself. I feel that they should not complain. It is only natural, as it is a country's national treasure after all. However, in the mausoleum itself, we were well-behaved, so I am happy with that.

    At the stilt house, we learnt that Ho Chi Minh lived a simple life in a simple house. This shows that we do not need to spoil ourselves in luxury.

  4. Today we went to the mausoleum and there was a really long queue, many of us, including me were complaining about just about anything and did not take note of our surroundings. Luckily, when we entered the mausoleum after a very long while and managed to see the old ruler, Ho Chin Minh. We managed to keep quiet and not talk. After that we headed to the old university where we saw all the stones inscribed with names of scholars who managed to passed their exams. Those who managed to pass their exams are given the title “doctor” which is very similar to a PHD in modern education systems. After that, we went shopping and it was very crowded. It was filled with people and motorbikes zooming across every second. It was a scary and terrifying experience at first but later on, i learnt that as long as you can keep your cool and walk slowly, they will just maneuver around you and you would be fine. After a long day, i learnt that we should be more aware of our surroundings and not be oblivious to whatever is happening around us

  5. Today, we went to 4 place. Firstly, we went to Ho Chi Minh Stilt House. It was the place that Ho Chi Minh lived in and also where his body is preserved. Ho Chi Minh seemed like a very humble person as he did not live in a very simple house. Some people were a bit disrespectful to Ho Chi Minh’s body. Secondly, we went to the Ancient University. There was a place where the names of scholars were carved into the tombstones. The Ancient University was built in a way similar to Chinese buildings. Thirdly, we went to Hoan Kiem Lake. Fourthly, we went to the French Quarters. There was a lot of shops and statues. We had to cross a lot of roads. It was very dangerous due to the high amount of motorcycles. Lastly, a lot of people got sick due to food poisoning, so I think we should be more careful on what we eat.

  6. We went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ho Chi Minh Stilt House. It was a really warm day today. In the mausoleum, we got to see the preserved body of the late Ho Chi Minh. We had to be solemn and we must not talk when we are in the mausoleum because it is a form of respect. We also visited the Presidential Palace and also the stilt house which Ho Chi Minh lived in. It was very simple and nice. Ho Chi Minh led a very simple life even though he was a president. In the afternoon, we went to Hoan Kiem Lake and also the French Quarters. At the French Quarters, the roads were really chaotic and it was scary trying to cross the roads. There were motorcycles everywhere. We were shopping at the french quarters but we had to walk for a very long time before we actually visited a souvenir shop.


  7. This morning, we then found out that a few have gotten sick due to food poisoning. We then found out it was due to the clams we have eaten the previous day when we headed to Ha Long Bay. They were found to be filled with sand and they were not cleaned properly. We then went to some places which include the mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh's body was preserved and protected by the Honor Guard, the HCM Stilt house where Ho Chi Minh lived from 1958 to 1969. The Ancient University where there were many stones inscribed with the stories of top scholars of the University. Then we went to Hoan Kiem Lake, where we learned about the legend and stories of the lake. Then lastly, we went to the Old/French Quarters which is a crowded, messy and sometimes dangerous place due to the high levels of traffic there.

  8. We went to Ho Chi Minh Mousoleum and the HCM Stilt House. We had a fun experience learning about the culture and history of VIetnam. We got to see the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh. We also got to realise how much people respect Ho Chi Minh and how highly they are thinking of him. We also got to learn more about the lifestyle of Ho Chi Minh. He was a very simple man and he even had a house that was not too grand and it was simple and had the basic facilities that a person needs.Then, we went to visit the ancient University and we learnt how the people studied there and their lifestyle and the way they are praised when they do well in their studie. I also learnt that the scholars were actually very smart and the youngest scholar was actually only 13. Then we went to the French Quarters whereby we purchased a lot of things that we needed. At the French Quarters, we got to experience the ty pical city feel of Hanoi. I also think that we had a lot of fun together as we learnt new things about Vietnam.

  9. Today's activity is to visit HO Chi Minh and to learn how he founded the country but still lives a humble life. It is very intresting to see the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh and it felt weird to keep the body of a dead person as it uses a lot of resources to keep the body from rotting. I guess the people loved their founder so much that the body of him is preserved from 1969 till date. I am glad that no one in the mausoleum got reprimanded. At the shop houses ( french Quarters ) The trafic there is very congested but moving at rapid speed. It is even scarier than a roller coaster ride as the amount of mini heart attack is very long but short. After crossing a numerous number of streets, we finally arrive at the handicraft shop. I then knew that the vietnam people do not need to have traffic lights but they will smoothly go between the crowd crossing the road. You must not stop in the middle of the road and you cannot run.

  10. Today, we went to visit the Ho Chi Min stilt house and mausoleum, the Ancient University, Hoan Kiem Lake and the French Quarters. The Ho Chi Min mausoleum is where the body of Ho Chi Min is preserved and protected by many guards. We saw that he lived in a simple house which we did not imagined a founder staying in. When we were there we had to respect by not talking in the mausoleum, bad-mouthing the systems and many other things.
    The Ancient University was a huge temple that held a lot of Vietnamese history such as the National Exam, the best teacher and many others. I learnt a lot about the Ancient University today and how it was a big part of the Vietnamese past such as the National exams where if you pass, you name would be carved into the slab of stone inside the university to show you passed. We also heard some traditional Vietnamese music there which was very interesting.
    Hoan Kiem Lake and the French Quarters were very interesting as the Hoan Kien Lake is a very big lake that has many ancient landmarks surrounding it. When we went to the French Quarters, we saw that it was a place where many people work at and gain income. It was very crowded and we were all very scared about crossing the roads.

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    1. We visited the Ho Chi Min mausoleum and the stilt houses, the Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarters. The mausoleum contains the preserved body of the late Prime Minister of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, which established the communist-ruled Republic of Vietnam in 1945. We saw the Thai-styled stilt houses he used to live in and learnt that he was a simple man that lived frugally in a not-so-grand house. We also saw the carp pond he owned, which was said that when he clapped his hands, the carp will gather to him for food. The Temple of Literature was where scholars from all around Vietnam took the National exam there. Those who passed shall have their details inscribed on slabs of stone, also known as the Doctor Steles. There were about 82 stelae remaining at the Temple of Literature. Some were too old and faded while other newer ones were still readable. We heard some music made by the traditional instruments of Vietnam which sounded nice. We went to Hoan Kiem lake, which had a few landmarks surrounding it, as well as an interesting legend. The Old/French Quarters was a busy place with interesting shops at every corner you turn. Crossing the roads was interesting, because even though there were many motorcycles, they would either stop and wait or go around you. Some would also honk very loudly. I learnt that the Vietnamese did not need traffic lights to be able to cross their roads. I learnt many interesting facts and information about Vietnam.

  12. The Ho Chi Min mausoleum was very grand but solemn, displaying the body of one of Vietnam's great leader, Ho Chi Min. Though he was held in respect, he led a frugal and simple life in a stilt house built according to Thai tradition. The Temple of Literature was where potential officers and officials studied and graduated, and have their details on slabs of stone, with a turtle carrying them, as to bless them with longevity. We also heard music from some musicians who played traditional instruments with skill and expertise, playing complex and lively music. The French Quarters was very crowded, with shops as far as the eye can see (and we saw a lot, as we walked a lot :P). The roads were crowded as well, and cramp, though we managed to cross them quite easily. This trip was a very eventful and interesting trip, and i would love to come here again (on a GCP Trip; possibly as a Student Leader?).

  13. We went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ho Chi Minh Stilt House today. We had to queue up for very long before we got into the mausoleum. In the mausoleum, we had the chance to see the preserved body of the late Ho Chi Minh. We were asked to be solemn and keep quiet in there as it is a form of respect in there. We also had to be still and not fidget around so much We also visited the Presidential Palace which is the stilt house which the late Ho Chi Minh used to live in. It was very simple place, but it was beautiful there, with plants and fishes which he fed everyday. We could see that although Ho Chi Minh was a president, he led a very simple and ordinary life like the rest of us. In the afternoon, we went to Hoan Kiem Lake to have our lunch and later in the evening, we headed to the French Quarters.. When we were the French Quarters, the roads were really chaotic with motorcycles and cars everywhere and all of us had a hard time trying to cross the roads. We were shopping at the French Quarters but in order to reach the souvenir shop we wanted to get to, we had to cross many roads which gave us all the experience of crossing roads in Vietnam.