Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers to share their thoughts about building an information and culture centre next to Ha Noi's Hoan Kiem Lake, which has sparked a storm of criticism from members of the public. Most readers do not agree with the idea. Here are some comments:
Robert Fries, American, Texas, USA
Preserving Vietnamese culture and landmarks should be high on Viet Nam's list because it helps attract tourists. They do not come to Viet Nam to eat at McDonald's and are looking to experience something different.
I agree with architects and local opinion that as well-intentioned as the culture centre might be, it might detract from the experience.
Pete Bunyon, Australian, Melbourne
Please do not build an information centre right next to Hoan Kiem Lake. I think it would ruin the feel of the area and tourists can use the Internet or purchase travel books off the booksellers around the lake if necessary.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
A state-sponsored centre is always a good idea, because they are well-stocked and do not have a profit incentive in order to provide good and honest advice. It should suggest places off the beaten path or historically important sites that profit-run places do not promote.
There is a privately run centre directly north of the lake below the Thai Express restaurant. They provide free city maps and have directed me to many places, even though I was clearly not a tourist. Thanks, guys!
Thailand promotes a "one tambon (small region inside a province) one product" system. I would like to see a giant map of the 63 provinces with flashing lights. Press a button, and see multiple coffee-producing regions light up. Press another to find caving, rafting or hiking trails.
As to the loss of architectural heritage, there are plenty of old buildings in desperate need of repair. If this new centre provides clean toilets, safe drinking water and a fast internet, what's to complain about?
I would particularly like to see a suggestion box and a complaints desk. If you open yourself up to criticism, travellers will make honest suggestions and you will receive free marketing feedback. It would also be great if approved taxis were standing by.
This new centre could raise the standard for the tour guide shops just around the corner in the Old Quarter that all display the same photos.
Quynh Nhung, Czech, Prague
Trees and public space are vital for urban people. Ranges of buildings, shopping centres or multi-storey offices have mushroomed in the capital in recent years. Building such a centre is unnecessary.
I often Google to get some reviews about the city I am going to visit. And it is helpful. You can get information about everything – historical sites, traditional customs and tips for travellers, including how to book cheap hotel rooms or even how to bargain for souvenirs. So, who will care about the centre?
Ha Noi should spend the money on building public restrooms with high-quality, clean toilets. That is what tourists need.
Tourists will feel comfortable when visiting a city with many trees and flowers; it makes people think they are close to nature even if they are actually in an urban area.
Minh Hoang, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I have lived in Ha Noi about two years. I was an architecture major in a local university. The first time I visited Ha Noi, the first thing that came to my mind was walking around Hoan Kiem Lake – the capital's icon.
Hoan Kiem Lake is surrounded by historical sites, like the statue of King Le Loi, or the ancient Ngoc Son Temple with a preserved corpse of an old tortoise. The tortoise relates to the legendary story that I love very much. The legendary story told about the King, who fought invaders by assistance of a tortoise saint that given him with a magical sword, and his return of the sword to the saint in the lake when he gloriously returned. Therefore, the lake was named Restored Sword Lake, or Sword Lake now.
I think people should treasure and protect everything around the icon of the capital. The construction site for the information centre would be about 200 sq. metres. The city's officials should think about creating a flower garden instead. It would provide a green space for tourists, where they could sit down and enjoy the view around the lake. Local residents could have extra public space to relax after work, and children could play there.
Urban areas never have enough green space. I had a chance to visit Singapore recently, and the country really amazed me. You can see trees and flowers everywhere. It's so green for a developed country!
Back to the information and culture centre: I just want to say that the capital authority should think of creating more green space for the city, rather than trying to construct high-rise buildings, or at least they ought to set up green buildings. — VNS