Urbanist Hanoi

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[Photos] A Hanoi in Transition, Over a Century Ago

Today, Hoan Kiem Lake has no lantern-lifting Statue of Liberty that people fish beside, Russian naval ships don't moor in the Red River, and nón lá hardly cover every head in the capital.

But they once did. This set of photos taken by an un-credited photographer for an 1890s French publication showcase Hanoi's less developed, more agrarian past as colonialism was ramping up its efforts to transform the city both visually and culturally.

Yet for all the differences between then and now, the monochrome snapshots contain elements people today will recognize, including large buildings next to Paul Bert Square (near modern Tràng Tiền Street), the Láng Pagoda and, of course, the hustle and bustle of a street strewn with shoppers preparing for a coming holiday. 

Nostalgia is an act of imagination, and thus can one be nostalgic for a time they never actually experienced? Certainly one can be thankful for not having lived through a certain time period. Your response to the photos, as always, is up to you. 

New buildings and roads.

Inside the mansion of the Governors-General of French Indochina.

Lang Pagoda.

Two village leaders.

A group of local militants.

On the bank of Hoan Kiem Lake.

One of the earliest buildings that the French administration constructed in Hanoi, which is now part of the Hanoi People's Committee complex.

An open-air market.

Hanoian fish in Hoan Kiem Lake.

Inside a factory.

Officers of the Russian cruiser Zabiaca and their family pose before the building that would later become the Grand Palais de l'Exposition.

[Photos via RedsVN]