The cold started on our last day in Vietnam. It was as if our bodies held it off until we enjoyed every bit of our trip. When it hit, it hit hard. Add a dose of jet-lag from a flight halfway around the world and my body is discombobulated. I’ve had several naps today and now when I should be going to bed I have a little energy, or at least enough to write a bit about our vacation adventures. Meanwhile, I’m treating the whole business with a shot of very very good scotch, which will – even if it doesn’t help the cold or the jet-lag – make me feel better about that situation.
One of the things we wanted to see in Hanoi was the longest ceramic mosaic wall in the world. It runs about 4 km along a wall which serves as a dyke along the Red River. Never mind that there is a neighbourhood between the dyke and the river. Apparently enough water is diverted by China before the river even gets to Vietnam, they haven’t seen flooding in a very long time, and are even farming areas which once were submerged.
Work on the Ceramic Road began in 2007 and was completed in 2010 and subsequently renovated. The ceramic comes from a nearby village, Bát Tràng. The idea came from a journalist named Nguyễn Thu Thủy who won a prize for coming up with the plan to transform the dyke. The project involved 35 professional artists from Vietnam and from 10 countries including Denmark, France, Holland, Spain, Italy, Britain, America, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. Add to that many local artisans and some 500 Vietnamese and international children and Vietnamese art students. It is incredible they pulled off such an ambitious project.
When we got to Hanoi, we decided to try to walk along the wall, or at least a good chunk of it. It runs along a very busy road and we weren’t sure how exactly to access it. The people at the hotel didn’t know what we were talking about when we tried to describe the project. I attribute this to a language barrier, as I’m certain they’ve all driven by it on their motorbikes many, many times. We finally found a concierge who understood what we wanted to see and wrote down instructions for a taxi driver who dropped us off along the wall. We didn’t see all of it but we walked a long way. There was one part where infrastructure made it impossible and we had to deke into a neighbourhood on the river side of the dyke and walk through a tunnel before accessing the wall again.
It was a noisy walk and the smell of fumes from all the traffic wasn’t pleasant but it was worth it as the wall is nothing short of spectacular. There is a huge amount of variety in approach and content along the way and it was all delightful. Different parts of the wall had various sponsors who made it all happen. What a fantastic collaboration! As mosaic artists, we were totally cranked up discovering the wall bit by bit. Here are a few photos to give you what I can only call a glimpse of what we experienced.
It takes an effort to walk along the wall. Most people in Hanoi would see this work as a backdrop of their day-to-day lives as they zoom along the roadway. The Ceramic Wall is a treasure not to be missed. If you ever vistit Hanoi (do it if you can!!), have a taxi drop you along the way and walk for a while, then hail another taxi to take you to the old city for a banh mi and a cold beer. You’ll be glad you did.