UNIQUE TRAVEL NEWS

We always update Unique Vietnam Travel News...
There’s an old Vietnamese saying, “Hanoi has thirty-six streets and guilds – Jam Street, Sugar Street, Salt Street…”. Inside a modern and dynamic city, there appears an antique quarter, the Hanoi’s Old Quarter – the represented eternal soul of the city. These days, most Vietnamese and Westerners are familiar with the phrase “Hà Nội - Ba mươi sáu phố phường” (translated as “Ha Noi - 36 districts” or “Hanoi – 36 Old Streets”), or “Phố cổ Hà Nội” (translated as “Hanoi’s Old Quarter”), the top special historical vestige and sight-seeing of the capital, luring international visitors thanks to their mostly original state.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Hoan Kiem Lake
Where is the Old Quarter located? Located between the Lake of the Restored Sword, the Long Bien Bridge, a former city rampart, and a citadel wall, the Old Quarter (consisting of 36 old streets inside) started as a snake and alligator-infested swamp. It later evolved into a cluster of villages made up of houses on stilts, and was unified by Chinese administrators who built ramparts around their headquarters. The area was named "Dominated Annam" or "Protected South" by the Chinese.

How old are the streets? It would be a big surprise should you know that Hanoi's Old Quarter came into being at the time King Ly Thai To selected Thang Long as the country’s capital in 1010, that is, the streets have a nearly 1,000-year old history and became crowded & lively in 15th century. What makes them unique is that many of them remain in their very ancient architecture of the 15th century. Up to now, it has been the oldest continuously developed area of Vietnam.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Hoan Kiem lake - Ngoc Son temple
What are their names’ origins? Due to their long-lasting age, they are called “Old Quarter” or “36 Old Streets” (as consisting of 36 member streets). Similarly to the Guilded age of Europe, “Ha Noi's 36 districts” is Vietnam's version of the guild concept. In the past, as artisans moved to the capital city to do business, they gathered together in this area to share the resources. As a result, many of the streets were named after the crafts sold at that individual street. Pho Hang Bun (Vermicelli), Pho Hang Ma (Paper Product), Pho Hang Bac (Silver), etc. are examples of the streets carrying the name of the products sold there.

The phrase “36 pho phuong” often causes much confusion for most people; “Phố” means a street or a place for merchants to gather to do business, while “Phường”, a district or a guild of artisans specializing in a particular trade (phuong cheo, phuong tho, etc.). Yet, in any case, both are right to some extent.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Conner beside Hoan Kiem lake 
Specialized craft streets and guilds: Most tourists are eager for exploring the old streets well-known for each one’s specialized A corner of Hang Gai Street

Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Inside Hanoi Old Quarter
Hang Gai Street offers silk clothing ready-made and tailored, embroidery, and silver products. Hang Quat, the street that formerly sold silk and feather fans, now stuns the visitor by its brilliantly colored funeral and festival flags and religious objects and clothing. To Tich Street connects the above two and is still the wood turner's street. Hang Ma glimmers with shiny paper products, such as gift wrappings, wedding decorations and miniature paper objects to burn for the dead. Lan Ong Street is a sensual delight of textures and smells emanating from the sacks of herbal medicinal products: leaves, roots, barks, and powders, etc. Coming here, you may feel as if you were in a classical-styled area in terms of both architecture and product types!
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Hanoi Old Quarter attracted with street food 
36 old streets or more? Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the "36 Old Streets," there are more than 36 actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number 36 came from the 15th century when there might have been 36 guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the 36 to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Asia represents the concept of "plenty." Nine times the four directions makes 36, which simply means "many". In fact, there are now more than 70 streets in the area.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets

Although many of the streets no longer sell the products after which they were named, some still do. Today, the Old Quarter has become the unique classical feature of Hanoi, and the inspiration of numerous writers, poets, and painters, and one of the desired tourist destinations in Hanoi.

Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Ancient house in 87 Ma May Street in Old Quarter
To fully explore the Old Quarter in Hanoi, prepare your feet for a day of walking street to street and taking in the locals' daily life, the old-style narrow streets and houses, the colorful souvenir shops, and of course trying some of the most tasty traditional foods of Hanoians. Many agree that joining a Hanoi walking tour or food tour offered by travel agencies will give foreign visitors a full experience of Hanoi Old Quarter, including the daily lifestyle, the history lesson and the feast for their tummies. Those who would like to walk around the area might want to check out this Hanoi Old Quarter walking tour, while those who look to explore the tasty traditional food in the area are recommended to take a look at this.



SEE OTHER POST ABOUT HANOI OLD QUARTER by 

The Old Quarter of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem lake, is a warren of narrow, noisy, motorbike infested streets that are lined with shops, restaurants, and hawkers. Each street typically specializes in a trade selling products befitting that trade. For example, there are streets that specialize in sheet metal work, spices, paper products, art, liquor, silk, leather, and so on.  It is a place to do business, to eat, to haggle over prices, to stroll and learn. Many of streets in the Old Quarter have names that reflect the trades which were practiced there during the 13th century. Thus Hang Bong means "baskets", Hang Dao means "silk", Hang Thiec means "tin" and so on. My hotel was on Thuoc Bac street which means "pharmacy street". It was a street in which local medicines were sold. Today that street is lined with stores selling locks, door latches and other metal accessories. So over time the name of the street may not reflect the trade or products sold there now.

In the Old Quarter, there are few pedestrian crossing, and it is almost impossible to walk on the side-walks because of the parked motor bikes, as shown in the photo below. Often you simply walk along the street edge, noting that motorbikes may approach you in all directions!
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
To cross a street you purposely walk into the traffic and trust that the motorbikes and cars will avoid you, which they do. But don't hesitate or reverse direction - just walk. Believe me, it takes some getting use to but the strategy works. The shops that line the streets are very colorful, often with goods for sale spilling over onto the sidewalks, as seen below.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
In the Old Quarter, and in Hanoi in general, there are no zoning  laws:  the old and dirty are side by side with the new and clean. Here is and example of a women's fashion store that you might find in a trendy shopping area of Tokyo or New York. Across the street is another story.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
In the following photo you have a modern watch store adjacent to a local mechanic shop. Here the owner in front of his cluttered doorway is dutifully at work with all his tools and "paraphernalia" on the sidewalk.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Vietnamese have a love affair with "hoa" (or flower in English). Here is one of many flower shops in the Old Quarter with a spectacular selection of beautiful flowers.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
 As one strolls the streets of the Old Quarter, you cannot escape the tantalizing aromas (unfortunately mixed with exhaust fumes) from street food being prepared on portable stoves/barbecues.  The menu is diverse: from grilled chicken, fried fish, BBQ meat  to steaming pho - the popular rice noodle soup of Vietnam. This photo shows a typical "open-air" sidewalk kitchen with locals sitting on little plastic stools enjoying a morning meal.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
A pineapple seller preparing freshly cut pineapple. Note: she is forced to literally sit in the street because of the row of motorbikes parked on the pavement.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
The next photo shows a single room jewelry store. The stairs in the background lead to the private living quarters of the store owner. This is quite common in Hanoi. The store is also a place to park your motor bikes. ( If you look closely there are two motorbikes!)
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets

Truth be told, many people in Vietnam eat dog and enjoy it. In one of my morning strolls around the Old Quarter, I  came across this open air meat market. For most Westerners (this writer included), seeing this sight is disturbing, given our Western sensibilities.
                                     Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Hoan Kiem Lake ("Lake of the returned sword") is the historical and cultural center of Hanoi. Its name is related to a legend in which King Le Loi was given a magical sword to drive out the invading Ming from China. As the following photo shows the water of the lake is darkish green in appearance. The lake is inhabited with tortoises (actually they are Asian freshwater giant turtles), and on occasion there are sightings. In Vietnamese culture, the tortoise is considered a sacred animal and if you should see a tortoise/turtle it is viewed as a good luck omen.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
During the weekend Hoan Kiem Lake is the gathering point for locals. The next three photos were taken one Saturday afternoon/evening from a cafe with a high vantage point overlooking the lake.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Later that day when darkness took hold, the shoreline of the lake was awash in a display of colorful lights, as seen in the next sequence of photos:
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets

Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Here is a night view of the north-east shoreline, as seen from west side of the lake.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
At the northern end of the lake is Jade Island, a small island on which the Ngoc Son Pagoda stands. To reach Jade Island you need to cross a wooden, red lacquered bridge called Huc Bridge, meaning "morning sunlight. The following photo is a night view of the bridge,  and its reflection in Hoan Kiem Lake. Son Pag
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
At the north tip of the lake there is a busy intersection with a large complex of shops and restaurants. At night the intersection becomes a blinding display of neon lights, commingled with headlights from the frenetic traffic.
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
At 7:00 pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday a night market is set up in the Old Quarter along Hang Ngang and Dong Xuan streets. Here vendors sell clothes, souvenirs, pirated DVDs, ornaments, cuddly toys, handbags, food - you name it. During the market the streets are closed to car and motor bike traffic so locals jam pack the market to seek out bargains without fear of been run over by a motorbike. It is a place to socialize and to be seen on the weekend, as captured in the photo below!
Hanoi Old Quarter – 36 Old Streets
Reactions:

Top 10 Vietnam attraction places

This is the list of the top 10 Vietnam attraction places


CLICK TO SEE MORE

Highlight tours

Top hotels

Top restaurants

Vietnamese culture

Traditional villages

Vietnam Travel Guide

"The road story Vietnam"

Vietnam Beauty

Blog Archive