Hanoi’s modest public spaces are being severely encroached upon by restaurants and cafés mushrooming right inside the capital’s parks, some of which are found violating construction regulations and being rented away at dirt cheap prices.
Situated in downtown Ha Dong District, Nguyen Trai Garden, or Ha Dong Park, has long been lost to facilities and parking lot for guests at a Trung Nguyen café nearby.
The café, which used to be just a small bar with a few couples of chairs scattering at a small park corner, now spans on an area of hundreds of square meters and receives hundreds of customers every day.
Visitors to the Hanoi Zoo, or Thu Le Park, on Dao Tan Street are also bothered by the Pho Ngoi Restaurant, which was constructed inside the zoo, and a complex of café and tennis court built next to it.
Another invader is the Gio Moi Restaurant inside Thong Nhat Park on Le Duan Street, which has been destroying the park’s tranquil atmosphere for decades with loud noises and sounds from wedding parties celebrated there on a daily basis.
Wrong design, throwaway prices
According to Hanoi Zoo’s management board, the project to build a restaurant, café and tennis court inside the zoo was approved by the municipal authorities in 1997.
The Ba Dinh District People’s Committee later cancelled three constructions inside the park as they were not consistent with original designs.
As Tuoi Tre finds out, the two establishments that are still in operation - Pho Ngoi Restaurant and the tennis court - violate regulations regarding their heights and use purposes.
Moreover, although the management board claimed that the restaurant is there to serve the zoo visitors’ need, Tuoi Tre found out that most of the customers come from outside.
Meanwhile, Dinh Van Tien, director of Ha Dong Environment Public Service JSC, said the plot of land inside Nguyen Trai Park, where Trung Nguyen café is situated, used to be a dirty place with a public restroom.
He said the Ha Dong District People’s Committee has ordered his company to manage the land.
“We have leased the land to La Vong Corporation to open a café at the price of only VND10 million (US$500) a month,” he said, admitting that the price is extremely cheap given the prime position of the park.
“But we will adjust the rent every year,” he added.
For his part, Nguyen Xuan Hung, deputy director of Hanoi Parkco that manages the Gio Moi Restaurant, said his restaurant was also built inside the park under municipal authorities’ approval, and the restaurant operation causes no harm to the park and its visitors.
However, Nguyen Van Han, head of the operation department of Thong Nhat Park, said the dining activities of the restaurant inside the park will damage its quiet atmosphere.
“The restaurant’s business will surely distort the cultural meanings of the park,” he said.