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stdClass Object ( [ID] => 32956 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2014-02-20 08:50:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-02-20 08:50:21 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_32957" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="A street vendor walks by Kim Ngan Temple on Silver Street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam."][/caption]
TOURISTS, hawkers and motorcyclists rub shoulders every morning in the congested alleyways of Hanoi's low-rise Old Quarter, which seems generations away from the office towers and electronics megastores springing up in other parts of the capital. The quarter's street grid, laid out in the 15th century, is still dominated by dilapidated shops selling everything from brass gongs to bamboo scaffolding. It is now among Asia's best-preserved urban hubs of traditional commerce — thanks largely to decades of inattention. The 82-hectare (203-acre) downtown area is crammed with Buddhist temples, pagodas and French colonial shophouses, whose original tiles and peeling yellow paint have become a draw for foreign visitors. But with property values high, this neighborhood could change dramatically in the coming years as similar ones already have in Singapore, Shanghai and many other cities. Authorities want to begin gentrifying the Old Quarter by relocating 6,200 households between this year and 2020. New construction is likely a few years away, but some residents already have been relocated. Some of them are nervous, though not necessarily over lost history. They worry about being exiled to the city's dusty margins, and of being forced to accept a bad deal from a Communist government that has generated public discontent across Vietnam by forcing people off their land with compensation far below market rates. Pham Dinh Tranh, a retired jeweler in the Old Quarter, has watched many of the traditional jewelry workshops of Silver Street slowly morph into cafes and souvenir shops. The 82-year-old wouldn't mind a change of scene: The Silver Street home he shares with his extended family is cramped and the roof leaks. But he said Hanoi officials will need to make a convincing case for relocation. "We're willing to go, but not if they take this property and resell it for profit," Tranh said. Vu Thi Hong, an official with the Hanoi government's Old Quarter Housing Relocation Project, said the main goal of the planned relocations is to reduce population density while preserving cultural heritage. With about 66,000 people, the quarter has a population density of 823 people per hectare (2.5 acres) — nearly eight times New York City's. One Silver Street temple — formerly occupied by long-term squatters — has been refurbished and opened to the public, with assistance from architectural consultants from the French city of Toulouse. During an interview at the temple, Hong said compensation for relocations is paid at market rates determined by the government. City planners have not yet decided what will be constructed once current residents are relocated, she added, but new buildings won't exceed three stories. She said a few hundred Old Quarter residents have been moved in the last decade from weathered temples and pagodas, and authorities plan to build an apartment complex on Hanoi's outskirts to house thousands of others. "Most of those who have already been moved say they have a better life now," Hong said, adding that the government pays up to 81 million dong ($4,000) per square meter at streetfront properties. In Hanoi's real-estate market, the average transaction price at Old Quarter properties is currently between $12,500 and $15,000 per square meter, according to Nguyen Son, a property agent in Hanoi. That exceeds the average price of $9,337 per square meter paid at luxury residential properties across Shanghai, as calculated last year by the London-based consultancy Knight Frank. Pham Ba Bao, who was relocated from Silver Street in 2010, is not entirely satisfied with his new situation. The retired bicycle maker used to live in the temple that has since been refurbished. He said he received 900 million dong ($42,300) and later purchased an apartment about seven miles away for 474 million dong ($22,278). "We're happy with this apartment, but we can't make a living," Bao said recently at his new place, down the street from some gasoline storage tanks. He said he used to earn 200,000 ($9.50) to 300,000 ($14) per day selling tea outside the temple, but foot traffic in his new location is minimal. He now survives mainly on the 3 million dong ($141) per month his daughter-in-law earns as a hairdresser. Scholars say vendors and artisans were among the first residents of the Old Quarter's 36 streets. When some traders fled to the former U.S.-backed South Vietnam in the 1950s, the north's Communist government seized their shophouses and divided them into apartments. Romain Orfeuvre, an architect from Toulouse who works in Hanoi, said the Old Quarter resisted change decades ago because of stunted economic development during Vietnam's wars against France and the United States, and more recently because authorities have been reluctant to evict squatters. Hoang Thi Tao, who runs a newspaper stand near the Old Quarter, is cautiously optimistic about the impending changes. "The project will help to make the Old Quarter prettier, improve its residents' living standards and lure more foreign tourists," Tao said. "But it'll also require a lot of resources and determination on the government's part. They'll need to give big compensation offers to persuade those people to leave."
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In Vietnam’s capital, old town braces for makeover

In Vietnam’s capital, old town braces for makeover
February 20, 2014 - 0 Comments - Travel Wire Asia

TOURISTS, hawkers and motorcyclists rub shoulders every morning in the congested alleyways of Hanoi’s low-rise Old Quarter, which seems generations away from the office towers and electronics megastores springing up in other parts of the capital. The quarter’s street grid, laid out in the 15th century, is still dominated by dilapidated shops selling everything from brass gongs to bamboo scaffolding.

In pictures: The Buddhas, temples and monasteries of Asia

In pictures: The Buddhas, temples and monasteries of Asia
February 10, 2014 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

FROM enormous Buddha statues to monasteries perched on cliff tops or located in remote valleys, Buddhism plays a huge role across Asia.

Top travel moments of 2013

Top travel moments of 2013
December 6, 2013 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

FROM the anniversary of the Everest climb to airways that charge per weight, the release of films that put tourism on the map and lots of travel awards, 2013 has brought a range of tourism experiences to the Asia-Pacific region.  January Qantas Airways passengers between Cairns and Port Moresby watched a large python clinging to…>

Fantastic destinations to consider in 2014

Fantastic destinations to consider in 2014
November 28, 2013 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

EVEN if you’ve been almost everywhere in Asia, there is always more to see and hidden gems to discover. From China to India, Australia and New Zealand, this list could take you to a riverside town, a sandy beach, crumbling ruins or to meet wildlife in the Asia-Pacific region in the new year. Happy travelling. Fenghuang,…>

5 of the best places in Asia for a romantic getaway

5 of the best places in Asia for a romantic getaway
October 21, 2013 - 0 Comments - Travel Wire Asia

THOUGH places like France and Italy are often lauded as ideal for romantic getaways, Asia is no slouch in the romance department either. From white sand beaches to rivers dotted with karst peaks to jungle retreats, it’s a continent full of beauty and opportunities for making memories with your significant other. Krabi, Thailand Land in…>

Asia on the page: 6 literary excerpts about Asian locations

Asia on the page: 6 literary excerpts about Asian locations
August 30, 2013 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

THE beauties of Asia are often espoused through photographs and paintings, but the literary world has done much to put it on the traveller’s map too . These six literary excerpts describe in vivid detail the scenes, culture and experience of living, visiting and traveling in Asia. While chosen for their apt descriptions, they should…>

A perfect family holiday in Hoi An

A perfect family holiday in Hoi An
August 23, 2013 - 2 Comments - Liz Ledden

THE news we were taking a family holiday to Hoi An in Vietnam was met with mixed reactions by friends and strangers. “That’s interesting,” remarked a woman at the park, a recent arrival to Australia. “I thought most Australian families went to Fiji for beach holidays.” Some people do, I told her. Sane people who…>

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Places to stay

La Residence Hue

Hue City, Tha Thien-Hue, Vietnam

La Residence Hue

Opulent art deco character-filled boutique

1 Bedroom, sleeps 2
1 Bathroom View

Sunrise Nha Trang Beach Hotel & Spa

Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa province, Vietnam

Sunrise Nha Trang

Beachside Luxury

1 Bedroom, sleeps 2
1 Bathroom View

Victoria Chau Doc Hotel

Chau Doc , , Vietnam

Victoria Chau Doc

Luxurious Colonial River Views

92 Bedroom, sleeps 2
1 Bathroom View

Evason Ana Mandara Hideaway

Nha Trang, , Vietnam

Evason Ana Mandara Hideaway

Simplicity, serenity, refinement

74 Bedroom, sleeps 2
1 Bathroom View

Princess D’Annam Resort & Spa

Binh Thuan, , Vietnam

Princess D’Annam Resort

Modernist sensibility meets post-colonial ambience

57 Bedroom, sleeps 6
1 Bathroom View

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