Yesterday, at the end of a long hot afternoon wandering the streets of Hanoi, we made our way along Hang Bong St back to our hotel. It’s a route I’ve covered many times. Around eight or nine years ago, I noticed a beautiful elderly woman standing outside a small gallery. We began talking and she invited me in for a look at the art. I met her son, artist Vu Dan Tan who played piano and chatted. Since that time, I’ve stopped by to say hi many times. Madam Ha is 90 years old and has lived through almost a century of unimaginable upheaval. Her husband Vu Dinh Long, a famous playwright and publisher in pre-Communist Hanoi, passed away in 1960. Her son, Vu Dan Tan passed away some years ago. Tan and his Russian wife Natasha opened Salon Natasha on Hang Bong St in 1990. It became the first independent gallery of contemporary art in Hanoi, in a time of tremendous artistic dynamism and optimism. Madam Ha’s welcome is as warm as ever. Her mind’s as sharp as ever too. She even manages to read without glasses. These little encounters have long been highlights of a visit to Hanoi. People like Madam Ha connect with a Vietnam of depth, warmth, humour and culture, that has been a big part of the magic of the place.
Rusty Compass listings are always independent. We list the places we think are worth knowing about. Our Featured Listings allow a small selection of businesses already recommended by us, to pay a fee for a place at the top of our list. That’s it. Featured Listings have no impact on reviews, or on the curation and independence of our lists.