Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hanoi Old Quarter

Date: 1st January 2015

The yellow motorbike belong to the shop owner in black shirt 

It’s still very early by the time we finished touring inside the Hoa Lo prison museum. We decided to head straight to Hoan Kiem, an old quarter area of Hanoi. The taxi driver had to call the hotel to get the name correct. He dropped us at the right shopping street. We can see that it will take less than 20 minutes to reach the old quarter from Hoan Kiem lake and in between there are also other attractions to stop by. It took us less than 2 hours doing quick shopping and coffee break. This old quarter is one of the reasons why Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, has attracted so many tourists over the years. It has 36 old streets and guilds.

The old quarter is an area well-known for the history, the architecture, the enormous amount and diversity of products and even the everyday life of its residents. Old Quarter marked its appearance in the 11th century, when King Ly Thai To, decided to build his palace. It means that year in 2010, Hanoi as well as the 36 old streets has turned 1000 years old. Originally a group of workshop villages surrounding the royal palace, the Old Quarter has gradually transformed into craft cooperatives, or guilds and soon gained its reputation as the business trading areas of the Red River delta. We had quite a long stop buying souvenirs from the shop where a lady in the below photo who was not happy with my bargaining skill. She talked non-stop whilst I merely said what I need to say and hugs her in the end. If you happen to see her shop (her shop address as snapped by me), do drop by as she has a heart of gold.

Skilled craftsmen migrated to the Old Quarter to live and work together in the same guilds, which were made specialized for artisans performing similar services. The new allocation of production and service helped to create a cooperative system for merchandise transportation to designated streets. Soon under French colony, the Old Quarter increasingly becoming a marketplace for trade between the local and businessmen from China, India and France.

Despite the damages that Vietnam War left in Hanoi, the Old Quarter still retained much of the original traits that interests tourists, especially those with architectural passion. These houses are neither tall buildings as people normally see in cities nor stilt houses on lines of poles, which were popular in Vietnams' mountainous regions these days. They are also called "tubular houses" which are short and narrow but have great length.

In the past, the king stipulated that "citizens' houses could not be built higher than the height of the king's palanquin". And because of the dense population in a limited area, people needed to spend the front room for stores; the inside room is widened to its length in order to divide places for manufacturing, dining and living of each family. We discovered the beautiful local coffee shop (though westernized) after we have done with our shopping. The coffee aroma has filled our nostrils as soon as we spotted this unique cafe. Surprisingly the cafe was full with foreign tourist. We had a great time with buns and coffee as afternoon coffee break.

The house is sometimes too narrow that only one person can pass by at a time. Standing close together, these tubular houses make up the ward along the soil streets; some streets were paved with stone or brick. Only until the later time, they were asphalted. The electricity supplied to this part of the city is still not being upgraded to underground cabling which are safer to the community. We hardly see any overhead cables such in below photo in other main city. It's very unique to feel the old surroundings in the Old Quarters, or rather everything seems to compliment each other. Ops, do not forget to buy laces material as it's cheaper to buy in Vietnam than in Kuala Lumpur.

Most of the tourist flooded this area. They were eager to wander along the old streets stopping by to check out the street stores and to buy local specialties, i.e. souvenirs. Here is an essential guide for tourists who would like to explore the Old Quarter, with some names of specialized streets: China bowls (Bat Su), roasted fish (Cha Ca), silver or jewelries (Hang Bac), women accessories (Cau Go), shoes and sandals (Hang Dau), silk (Hang Gai), mixed fruits (To Tich), combs (Hang Luoc), jars (Hang Chinh), tour services (Ma May), candies and dry apricot (Hang Duong), fried/roasted sour pork hash (Tam Thuong lane on Hang Bong Street), bamboo products (Hang Buom), etc.

Fall in love with a beautiful girl in white shirt who was there to assisted her mother attending Anne with her purchase. She's in a final year in local university and HAD a boyfriend!

In addition, visitors as well as city dwellers can go to the night market taking place along the old streets. Hence, to be able exploring the old quarter, you must prepare your feet for a day of walking street to street and taking it the locals daily life, the old style narrow streets and houses, the colorful souvenir shops and of not to forget trying some of the most tasty traditional foods of Hanoians. We, however did not have that luxurious to feast the food beside having to enjoy the coffee at the locals coffee shop.

A recommended place for food with Hoan Lake as ambiance

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