I once saw an interesting picture on one of my friends’ facebook page. The picture was of two identical locks that were on a fence on a bridge. I though it was just a random picture until recently, when I saw a picture of the Great Wall. It wasn’t just another image, but a picture that highlighted a part of the fence where a lot of locks were hung.
|Locks hung on Long Bien Bridge (Photo: Thanh nien)|
I googled and found out that walls of locks are not new in the world. They have appeared in countries across the globe. But in different countries, the walls have different meanings.
One such area at the Great Wall in China symbolises the everlasting romance between two people, while in Hungary , putting a lock on a wall is a patriotic gesture. The tradition has recently been practiced in Vietnam at the 100-year-old Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi .
With its charming vintage look and incredible view of the Hong (Red) River, Long Bien, the oldest bridge in Hanoi , has been a favourite spot for young people to get together. After a slow ride on motorbikes, people often stop at a fine spot on the bridge, where they enjoy conversation with one another or stare at the magnificent view. On the bridge, couples could possibly forget about time and stand or sit on the side of the bridge for hours. There are vendors there who are willing to serve them with snacks or drinks.
But a recent trend has transformed Long Bien from a hangout spot to something more personal. About three years ago, mysterious locks appeared on the fence of the bridge. At first no one knew who put them there or why. But after a story that explained the meaning of the locks was posted on various blogs, more and more locks were secured to the fence.
Most locks belong to young couples. First, they find a good spot for their locks. Some couples are prudent in their placement of locks. They have been known to take measurements of the fence in order to find locks that would fit on their chosen place. Then they buy stainless steel locks, which can cost more thanVND 200,000 (US$11 ).
Next, they place their locks onto the fence, but this is not a simple task. Couples have invented creative ways to make their tough locks intertwine, which allows them to be able to tell a story about their owners. Finally, after securing the locks to a nice spot, they throw away the keys as a sign of commitment to their partner.
The whole procedure is so complicated that it’s like a ritual. Young couples believe that the locks will bless their young love and keep it alive for 100 years.
It might seem like a strange belief at first, but the locks have saved relationships. Do Mai Quyen, a 21-year-old student, shared: “My boyfriend and I put our locks here two months ago. We had an outrageous fight once. But then we went back to the bridge and saw out locks there. Through all the scorching sun and pouring rain of Hanoi , they are still holding on to each other. We immediately found a way to solve our problem. It’s better than therapy.”
Nguyen Thi Ton, a 38-year-old vendor on the bridge, sells maize by during the day and snacks at night. “Couples who put locks here are all nice young people. They often return to their spot on the bridge. Some even told me their love story. Kids these days get so much more of an opportunity to be romantic,” said Ton.
“They hardly cause traffic problems, because the part of the bridge has space for parking. People have parked their motor bikes there for sight-seeing forever,” Ton said.
When I asked Pham Van Tuan, 47, a bridge guard, whether or not parking or putting locks on the bridge is legal. He was uncertain. Technically, parking on any bridge is illegal, but these regulations have not been enforced on Long Bien. Most people on the bridge are either vendors, sightseers or joggers. Daily trains still run on the railway in the middle of the bridge.
Long Bien will be renovated in the near future, which means all the locks will be removed and this tradition may have to move somewhere else or disappear forever.