|A privately-operated parking lot on Thanh Niên Street, near Trấn Quốc Pagoda in Hà Nội. — Photo baodansinh.vn|
HÀ NỘI — In the run up to Tết, Thanh Niên Road, sandwiched between West Lake and Trúc Bạch Lake, is usually overcrowded with vehicles carrying kumquat trees and peach blossoms to and from the capital’s most famous flower markets - Tứ Liên, Nhật Tân, Xuân La or Phú Thượng.
During the festive period citizens and visitors flock to the city’s oldest Buddhist temples - Trấn Quốc Pagoda and Quán Thánh Temple, located at each end of the road.
Motorbikes are parked on the pavements, some of them legally and others illegally, as residents make use of the space in front of their houses and stores to offer parking for a fee.
Drivers have to pay VNĐ10,000 (US$0.44) per motorbike and VNĐ50,000 ($2.2) per car. This rate is two or three times more expensive than that on a normal day.
Nguyễn Văn Toại, a visitor to Hà Nội, said that he accepted the higher parking fees during the holidays.
“It’s easier for people to be tolerant of the higher charges during the first days of the Lunar New Year, as they go to the pagoda and pray for a good year ahead and don’t want to fuss about with tiny things like parking fees,” he said.
Another visitor, Đỗ Thanh Dương, said that he parked his car at the flower garden near Trấn Quốc Pagoda and nobody mentioned a parking fee.
However, when he was leaving, a man came and asked for VNĐ50,000, he said, adding that it was not reasonable.
Increased parking fees are also in force around other major temples, pagodas and cultural sites across the city such as Phúc Khánh Pagoda in Ngã Tư Sở Street, Quán Sứ Pagoda or the Temple of Literature.
Hoàng Mạnh Dũng, vice chairman of Ngã Tư Sở Ward People’s Committee said that residents living around Phúc Khánh Pagoda usually offered parking services without permission during Tết or major events.
Local authorities arranged an area in Ngã Tư Sở flower garden for visitors to park free of charge, but few drivers have used the parking lot so far.
Nguyễn Văn Túc, head of the ward’s Association of Victims of Agent Orange, said that the association and the local youth union were assigned to manage the parking lot serving visitors to Phúc Khánh Pagoda.
However, the parking lot of almost 300sq.m received about ten motorbikes over the last few days, he said, adding that the area was far from the pagoda.
“Drivers would rather pay a fee than walk the distance,” he said.
Police and young people in Tây Hồ District this year continued offering free parking services for visitors to Tây Hồ temple during Tết.
Secretary of the District’s Youth Union Phùng Thị Ngọc Anh said that this was the second year young people had helped in curbing illegal parking lots around Tây Hồ temple.
From Lunar New Year’s Eve to the fourth day of the New Year, over 10,000 vehicles, including cars and motorbikes, used the free parking lot, she said, adding that the area was large enough to meet demand.
Thanks to this scheme, illegal parking lots in the neighbourhood were put out of business. — VNS