vietnam chronicles: a walk around hoan kiem lake

it was a saturday morning when i went to hear mass at saint joseph cathedral in hanoi.  the mass was scheduled at 5:30 and i was about some minutes early.  i walked around the cathedral and took pictures of its façade.

built in 1886, it is neo-gothic in style similar to indonesia’s gereja katedral jakarta which i was able to visit last march.

the cathedral was closed in 1975 upon reunification of vietnam and was not reopened until 1985.

i have read some reviews about it being inaccessible due to the locked high fence and closed doors, likely it is only open during mass.

the cathedral is located in hoan kiem district.  it creates an interesting fact that between the busy streets and the bustling of people and many motorbikes of the old quarter, a solemn, beautiful edifice exists.

i was reluctant at first to take pictures of the altar when i was inside for it might be prohibited.  a novena was ongoing so i simply just took a few shots.  i then took a seat on the last pew near the main entrance door of the cathedral.  the mass started and it was in vietnamese, though i did not understand a single word there was still the part of the mass when they sang the lord’s prayer with the church goers hands slightly lifted.  when the mass has ended, most of the interior lights were shut off.  about 7% of vietnam’s total population are catholics.

midday i walked around hoan kiem lake, which is near the old quarter of hanoi and a walking distance from the hotel i was staying on.  it is said to be one of the major scenic spots in the city and serves as a focal point for its public life.

the welcoming morning sunlight bridge (cau da huc) is a red wooden bridge that connects a small islet in the lake to the shore.

there is a small entry fee to get into the islet.  inside is a temple and some souvenir shops.

this structure is the main gate.

a preserved specimen of the hoan kiem turtle is on display in the temple.  these endemic, soft-shelled turtle specie was known before to be extinct but was then found out that there is one elusive female that still thrives in the lake.

the turtle tower, a small pagoda erected at an islet in the middle of the lake.

it is a tower honoring the mystic turtle of hoan kiem.

the turtle tower (thap rua, in vietnamese) was built in the mid-18th century.

indonesia chronicles: the tower and cathedral

after my visit to the museum, i walked for a few minutes going to the national monument of indonesia, monumen nasional. it is an obelisk-type monument that stands 433 feet and sits in the center of merdeka square, an area in central jakarta surrounded by government buidings.

the monument is the symbol of the country’s fight for independence. at the top of the structure represents a flame, weighing 14.5 ton called as the flame of independence, which is covered by 50 kilogram of real gold foil.

there is an underground passageway that leads up to the base of the monument, where you have to pay an entrance fee. inside is the national history museum.

The towering monument encapsulates the philosophy of Lingga and Yoni. Lingga resembles an alu rice pestle and Yoni resembles a lesung rice mortar, two important traditional Indonesian tools. Lingga and Yoni also symbolize eternal life with the lingga phallic symbol, representing masculinity, positive elements, and daytime and the Yoni the female organs symbol, representing femininity, negative elements, and night. The monument consists of a 117.7m obelisk on a 45m square platform at a height of 17m, the goblet yard. ~ from wikipedia

there is an observation deck in the tower where you have to pay another entrance fee. unfortunately the ticket counter was already closed at 3:00 pm and i was not able to get access.

the monument is open to the public everyday, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.

the next morning, i attended mass at jakarta cathedral ( gereja katedral jakarta).

the cathedral is buit in neo-gothic style and was consecrated in 1901. there are three main spires where the two tallest ones measured 60 metres tall and are located in front on each side of the portal.

the buildings material consist of thick red bricks covered with plaster, roofs made of teak wood and the spires made of iron.

the large round stained glass called as rozeta rosa mystica, is the symbol of mother mary.

only 3% of indonesia’s population are catholics.

there is a statue of mother mary in the main entrance and a sentence written in latin: “beatam me dicentes omnes generationes” which means “all generations shall call me blessed”.

after the mass was finished, i bought some wooden rosaries in the cathedral’s bookstore to bring back home for my ma.  i took a picture of the cathedral from istiqlal mosque at the opposite road then took a taxi to surabaya street.