The last days of Zone 9
Some of my friends from Xian always admonished me about not visiting the famous terracotta warriors. Splendid they may be, but such attractions fail to rouse my interest much. I spent most of the time in the market that grew around the old Muslim quarter — for I am a fan of spaces that grow up organically. That, and I avoid tourist destinations with extreme prejudice.
I was lucky enough to visit the local art space called Zone 9 in Hanoi just before the area was closed down. The back story is that there were these factory buildings that were lying dormant. Some local artists moved in and set up their studios. Soon there were cafes and bars. The students started to hang out. The zone turned into a vibrant night spot and a cute place for taking pictures in the day. The prime location attracted developers who bought the land out. The new owners want to dismantle the units and build anew. I hope the artists find a new place to transplant this space. Below are some photos from Zone 9.
I travel to Vietnam several times a year, but I am coming back to Hanoi after 12 years. It is nice to be back, and I can finally appreciate the different characteristics of the people here. It is often said that the pace of life in Hanoi is slower compared to the south. I agree with this. I found that I was able to make more random friends in Hanoi as they had more time to talk to strangers.
Perhaps the visit was also made special because my guide was Mien. Mien runs an arts magazine and is passionate about the art scene in Hanoi. Mien knew many of the people at Zone 9, and she enlightened me with the backstories on the artists and groups here.
Some reading about Zone 9