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Hanoi's Old Town
Definitely the number 1 sight in Hanoi, its Old Town is a place to spend days and days and days. Just wandering through the streets, you will discover so many different things - ranging from hectic markets, kitschy toys, tranquil backstreet pagodas and numerous street vendors to smoky meats for lunch, gravestone carvers, the smell of hundreds of herbs and essences made from them or a collection of 150 flower pots on an overcrowded balcony. It's close to impossible to describe Hanoi's Old Town in a tip as short as this one - you could easily write a book about its multifariousness! Let's try anyway...
The Old Town originally consisted of 36 streets, each of them selling a different product. Back then you would go to the silk street to get your silk dresses, to the sugar street to stock up on sugar or to the bamboo street to buy a bamboo ladder. Nowadays, these things are all mixed up. The names of the streets still exist, but they are no more limited to only one product. Interestingly, there's still the trend that a street or a row of houses in one street only sell the same thing - for instance glasses in lower Luong Van Can, tin products in the area around Hang Non or gravestones in Hang Bac. Hang Gai is still responsible for silk - but I suppose prices have risen skywards since the old days!
Getting lost in this labyrinth of streets and awaiting curiously what is sold around the next corner is one of the best things you can do in Hanoi. In case your time is limited, you might want to hire a cyclo driver to pedal you through the old quarter.
Apart from that, the Old Town is also the place to be when it comes to touristy things such as shopping or tour booking. The majority of tour agents is found here (literally one at every corner) as is the majority of silk shops. Prices are pretty high, though, so that you might want to check out other parts of Hanoi as well. Then there's the food: home to several small street markets (and the bigger Dong Xuan market), there is no better place than this to find out how these strange thorny fruit taste like that you see everywhere... Hint: it's durian, and it tastes, let's say, "interesting"!
Ah, I could go on forever. Let's keep it short: Hanoi's Old Town is a must. If you have but one hour to spend in the city, spend it here!
PS: See my travelogue for more impressions of Hanoi's Old Town!
A mazes of alleyways, lanes, street eateries, bars and local vendors. Even if you don’t shop, simply walking through the Old Quarter in Hanoi is an exotic treat for the senses.
Just wandering around, discovering what the city has to offer. Everything north of the Hoam Kiem Lake is the Old Quarter, and just following your inquisitiveness is the best way to experience it.
The streets are full of pedestrians, many of which are vendors with shoulder poles suspending their loads of fruits, vegetables, fish, and aromatic herbs.
Ground transportation fights for space in the maze of streets. There are cyclos and trishaws, bicycles, and motorbikes and all seem to be honking and ringing their bells incessantly. This experience of Old Town in Hanoi is not to be missed
- Arts and Culture
Water Puppet Show – A Unique Art of Vietnam
1. Water puppet Overview
Water puppetry art is a long traditional cultural activity of agriculture-based citizens by the Red River and has existed for a long time with unique features. The special element of water puppetry is the use of the water surface as a stage for performance. The stage for performance which is a space in front of the puppet house is called puppet house or water house, and built in the pond or lake with balanced architecture symbolizing the communal house roof in Vietnamese rural areas. All the performing activities, stages and flags, fans, elephants, parasols, decoration gates, etc are truly small communal houses with their bending roofs which are vividly reflected on the water surface. By performing the old traditional water puppet show, daily activities and customs of Viet Nam peasants are vividly expressed.
The puppeteers stand behind a curtained backdrop. First performed a thousand years ago on the surface of ponds and paddy fields in Vietnam's Red River Delta, water puppetry (roi nuoc in Vietnamese) is the lively creation of farmers who spent their days in flooded rice fields. At some point, they discovered that the water was an excellent medium for puppetry: it not only concealed the puppeteers' rod and string mechanisms, but it also provided exciting effects like waves and splashes.
2. What to see in water puppet show.
The water also provides the best setting for the puppeteers' theme: day-to-day village life. Water puppets bring wry humor to scenes of farming, fishing, festival events such as buffalo fights, and children's games of marbles and coin-toss. Fishing turns into a game of wits between the fisherman and his prey, with the fisherman getting the short end (often capturing his surprised neighbor by mistake). Besides village life, scenes include legends and national history. Lion dogs romp like puppies while dragons exhale smoke and shoot sprays of water at the audience. Performances of up to 18 short scenes are usually introduced by a pig-tailed bumpkin known as Teu, and accompanied by a small folk orchestra.
3. How to make a water puppet
To make a perfect puppet, craftsmen must experience different stages from body carving to decoration. The more perfect puppets are made, the more diversifying technique and performance artisans can perform. The fig-tree is a popular material for carving the puppet because it is light, durable and controllable in the water. In Viet Nam puppet stores, there remains the ploughman, uncle Teu, fisherman, orchestra, fairy, etc. The clever skill of the artistes brings the audience fresh, honest, smooth feelings and positive behaviors, nature-loving and people-loving, through magnified simplification and artificialization.
4. Where to see water puppet show
Through water puppet shows, the audiences will feel the atmosphere of village festivals reflecting simple dreams of residents in Red Delta. With local and international performance shows, Viet Nam puppetry performers have made a very large contribution to promoting a unique art of Viet Nam to regional and global friends.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is a familiar address for both domestic tourists and foreign ones, who want to enjoy water puppet shows and discovery the beauty of this unique Vietnam traditional art.
Located at 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang street, nearby Hoan Kiem Lake, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is a familiar address for both domestic tourists and foreign ones, who want to enjoy water puppet shows and discovery the beauty of this unique Vietnam traditional art.
- Arts and Culture
Things To Do In Hanoi
Hanoi- the capital of Vietnam, is the Asian city with European characteristics with much of its French influence retaining where you could immediately fall in love with. There is tons to do in this 1000 years- old city. However with your limited time, here ore our recommendations for things to do in Hanoi that will make you trip extra special.
Hoan Kiem lake
A beautiful lake located in the Old Quarters with a lengthy history and legend about the first king of Le dynasty. Hoan Kiem Lake means “Lake of the Returned Sword”. Hoan Kiem lake is located inside the complex of Ngoc Son pagod),The Huc Bridge and Pen tower in the surroundings making a sparkling colorful nature picture. In the middle of the lake situated Turtle Tower.People say that there are very large, old tortoises living in the lake and it is lucky if you see one of them emerging from the water.
Trying Local Specialties.
You can experience some adventurous things by eating some strange and unique dishes in there like snake meat (which is available in the form of a 14 course meal), Worm Paddies .If you have a chance you should try eating Soft Serve Cinnamon Ice Cream which is particular ice cream different from the usual supermarket, package we buy and very delicious with only about 60 cents.
Weasel coffee is the special beverage you should enjoy if you come to Hanoi especially for those who are interested in caffeine drink. It is made from coffee beans that have been carefully selected and digested by a weasel, then used to make coffee.
Of course, Visiting Hanoi is not completed without trying the street food like Pho, Bun Cha, Banh cuon..
Water Puppet Show
Water puppet art is a long traditional cultural activity of agriculture-based citizens by the Red River in Northern Vietnam and has existed for a long time with unique features. The special element of water puppetry is the use of the water surface as a stage for performance. The show is about an hour long and takes place every evening.
Price: $2.5 – $5 depending on which tickets you get
The Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature is located in van Mieu Street, 2km west of Hoan kiem Lake. Built in 1070, it was considered as Vietnam’s first university in 1076. Over the years, many Vietnamese scholars were educated here. Nowadays, it is a popular place for upcoming college graduates to get their picture taken and the grounds are quite pretty
Hanoi Cooking Centre
Located in 44 Chau Long Street, nestled on the edge of Hanoi's famous old quarter and close to picturesque Truc Bach and West Lake, Hanoi Cooking Centre is a cooking school, and cafe. Vietnamese food, with its fresh flavors and wide variety, is quite delicious. If you want to make your own Vietnamese dishes, it is a wonderful place for you.
Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi_
The Hỏa Lò Prison was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War . The prison was demolished during the 1990s, though the gatehouse remains as a museum.. When you come to here, you have watch an exhibit showing the awful conditions under French colonization as well as many objects, pictures depict American soldiers in there.
Hanoi night market
Hanoi night market, also known as Dong Xuan night market, is weekly held on weekend evenings in the Old Quarter of Ha Noi. It’s a very interesting place that all visitors should not miss if they have chance to travel to Hanoi. This market spreading from Hang Dao Street to Dong Xuan market creates a busy and crowed walking street. Local people and visitor come here for strolling, sight-seeing and shopping. You can find everything here from clothing, souvenir to recreation or food.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Located in Central Ba Dinh District, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was built to dedicate the leader of the country where visitors come to express their admiration and gratitude to the national hero.
Popular Street Food Addresses in Old Quarter
If you visit Hanoi without tasting street food, It's like you are never really here. There's a lot of vendors and stores around the Old Quater, but not every one of them serve the best street food. I have some popular address that may help you:
1. Vietnamese noodle soup (Pho) : 48 Bat Dan street
2. Spring roll (Nem) : 15 Ngo Gach Street
3. Pillow cake (Banh Goi) : 52 Li Quoc Su street
4.Steamed rice pancake roll (Banh Cuon) : 101 Ba Trieu street
5.Grilled Pork with Vermicelli (Bun Cha) : 43 Cau Go street
6.Vietnamese sandwiches (Banh Mi) : 118a Hue street
And if you don't have time to go to every place, you can go to Ngo Trang Tien near the Opera House. The stores here open from early morning to late evening. Almost every street food can be found in Ngo Trang Tien, maybe not the best but cheap and delicious!
Notice: Please remember Ngo Trang Tien is not Trang Tien street when you ask people for help. This might be confused
Hope I can help!
The Old Quarter
If you don’t want to stroll around the Old Quarter on your own, you can take a cyclo tour through ‘Quartiér Indigene’ - as it was called by the French. You’ll find a long line of cyclos just in front of the Huc Bridge at the Hoan Kiem Lake, and we went for a very interesting 1½ hour tour through the Old Quarter...
The Old Quarter is a charming place filled with narrow streets, tall houses, and a hectic daily life. The area was once known as 'the 36 streets’ because it originally consisted of 36 streets, each being closely attached to a traditional trade such as silversmiths, potters, bakers, and so on… Today there are bicycles, motorcycles, food stalls, stalls selling all kinds of goods, and people everywhere…
- Arts and Culture
Mid-autumn festival in Hanoi
The Mid-autumn festival is very special to Vietnamese people. It's a harvest festival but it's also a day for children to have fun. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. This year, it's is held on Sunday, Sep 30 in the Gregorian calendar.
The celebrations on this day usually include eating Mooncakes, drinking tea, carrying lanterns (usually Star Shaped lanterns), floating Water Lantern (lotus shaped), wearing paper or plastic masks, making pomelo dogs, watching Lion dancing or Dragon dancing and the most important thing is the whole family gather together. Parents tell children stories about the Full moon day, and then the children usually hold each other hands ,go around the neighborhood and sing.
In this occation, you could see someone who sell lanterns or masks everywhere . But when you go to Hang Ma street (street of joss paper) in Hanoi, the view there may surprise you. Many people who sell masks, lanterns or red drums sit both sides of the street. In the afternoon, a lot of people go there just to buy a small drum or to take a picture,babies are carried in their father's shoulders. Crowded street, but that's what make the day unique.
Walking the Old Quarter
The best way to experience all the hustle and bustle of Hanoi is to experience the streets of the Old Quarter. The streets are narrow with wall to wall shops on every side and more motorcycles then you could ever possibley imagine. Most of the shops have open facades with the vendors wares on full display, as a result there are really no sidewalks to speak and one is forced into the streets to go from shop to shop. The streets are full of motorcycles and pedestrians and the sounds of engines and shop owners barking out invitations fill the air. Most of the best hotels are crammed into the Old Quarter with just about everything else and it makes for the perfect starting point for you visit to Hanoi and Halong Bay. In the Old Quarter you will find everything Vietnamese from delicious delicacies to bamboo artwork and just about everything in between!
Ancient gate to Old Quarter
Hanoi’s Old East Gate is the only survivor of 16 medieval city gates that provided access to the historic walled city, which we now refer to as Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Situated at the intersection of Hang Chieu and Dao Duy Tu, which is due north from Hoan Kiem Lake, the gate remains a hive of activity, with pedestrians and motorcycles navigating the atmospheric Old Quarter.
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
The Old Quarter...Communal Houses..
Scattered throughout the Old Quarter you can find more than a few Communal Houses that are so attached to the culture of the people of Vietnam and Ha Noi.
Communal Houses in Vietnam have been in existence for hundreds of years. Initially as Chinese peoples moved southwards into what is now Vietnam these “Dinh Lang” or what today is referred to as communal houses were established in most communities to plan the economic and social development and other activities of the communities that they served. Communal Houses also served as places for worship for the community “founding fathers”.
This is true also in the early years in the development of the “communities” found within what is today the Old Quarter. As mentioned in other tips referring to the Old Quarter, each street was the central location of a particular trade or guild and in effect these were independent “communities. This is one of the reasons that there are so many small communal houses seen throughout the Old Quarter of Ha Noi.
I stopped briefly at two of them. One can be seen at 33 Pho Bat Dan…and the other at 85 Hang Gai …both structures are simple yet elegant in there own way and VERY colorful.
Do take the time to take a look at these small and ornately decorated places that are so unique and significant to the culture of the people of Ha Noi.
The ones that I visited were free of charge to access.
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
The Old Quarter…87 Ma May Street
This structure is a restored house of Chinese origin that illustrates the design elements of a merchant’s home of 19th Century Ha Noi.
The structure is designed to maximize natural occurring elements of weather to ventilate as well as illuminate the interior. Incorporated into the design is an open air courtyard that provides light as well as ventilation.
This is a typical structure that would have been occupied by a merchant living and doing business in what is today the Old Quarter of Ha Noi. The main floor would be the area of the structure used for business; the food preparation area was at the rear of the structure as was a water source... a well. The living quarters and shrines are found on the upper floors.
Today you can visit free of charge and wander around and look for yourself at this wonderful wooden building.You can pay a small fee though and be "guided" throughout the house. There are a few people working there dressed in the traditional clothing of Vietnam, a couple of women wearing the lovely Ao Doi and an artist, a man working on calligraphy. There was available for purchase some of his work…sorry I didn’t inquire about pricing as I wasn’t shopping. The quality of his work was quite good though.
The natural lighting of the home was warm and inviting, the furniture made from wonderful dark wood, the walls and interior were decorated with paintings and live plants growing here and there. The structure itself was of wonderful wooden post and beam construction and quite well built.
I enjoyed a great conversation with the man, we talked a little about art, poetry and politics I suppose how government was not as “close” to the experiences of real people as was the artist, and how he tried through his art to convey his perspective to the “normal everyday person”.
I think you’ll enjoy a visit here to this old house…I thought my experience here was rather unique and Im certainly happy that I had my “Ha Noi Kid” LoAn around to help translate our conversation!
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
The Old Quarter..."Life in Motion"
There is plenty of information here at VT about the Old Quarter…it’s an incredible experience to walk the streets, smell the air, and experience for yourself the hectic and frenzied pace of this area of the city. You really have to experience it for yourself.
Its really not much more than a conglomeration of businesses and PEOPLE going about they're daily lives and I think that this is what makes this part of the city so unique and interesting..The architecture is unique to say the least but this is where you are able to see some of the real people of Ha Noi just doing they're thing.
Originally the Old Quarter of Ha Noi was a congregation of craftsmen that is believed to be the oldest “continuing” developed settlement in all of Vietnam that eventually evolved into an area where each street was synonymous with a particular craft or product type.
Today it has changed and now for the most part there is a smattering of different businesses mixed together on each street. The street names are still the same and in some cases you’ll find the word “hang” incorporated into the street name.”Hang” translates in English as “merchandise”.
The narrow alleys and busy streets teem with life’s every day activities, shopping, eating,food preparation,people walking, motorbikes, bicycles coming and going, the infamous tiny sidewalk tables and chairs, the horns honking, laughter, food cooking…it just seemingly goes on and on.
Temples, communal houses, restaurants and homes and businesses are all crammed into an area sometimes referred to as the “36 streets”. You can loose yourself and a day or two quite easily if you would like to, exploring and participating in this “life in motion”.
I wandered around the Old Quarter for a few hours a couple of times and I found it pretty interesting but I also found it to be quite tiring, after a while.One MUST check this out when in Ha Noi. The Old Quarter certainly provides a look into the lives of the people of Ha Noi.
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
The Old Quarter is a bustling area of small, narrow streets that lie to the north of the Hoan Kiem Lake and is where I stayed during my visit to Hanoi. I stayed here just before Tet (Vietnamese lunar New Year) celebrations and so the area was just crazy with people buying food and other goods in order to see in the New Year. It’s the oldest part of the city and even at the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialised in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specialisations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original commerce. The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops. Local cuisine specialties as well as several clubs and bars can also be found here as well as several street markets plus the large indoor Dong Xuan Market.
- Historical Travel
Walking around the Old Quarter
When in Hanoi you absolutely must spend some time walking around the Old Quarter. My favorite times here were early in the morning or late at night when the street traffic is light and the locals are strolling around or sitting with their friends gossiping outside. Midday is also fun in a different way…totally chaotic and noisy
The street life here is fascinating and colorful…Each and every street has a different flair…left over from the time when the area was divided into 36 different artisans guilds, each centered around a temple or community house. The street names normally start with the word “Hang” which means merchandise…so for example “Hang Quat” is “Merchandise Ceremonial Fans” and sells a large variety of brightly colored religious goods….there are also streets devoted to tin goods, traditional medicines, shoes and paper goods…
This area left relatively undamaged from the bombing raids during the “American War” so be sure to look up to see the architecture in here, with its fifteenth century merchant houses and its “tube-houses”
For a full-on introduction to Ha Noi you can't go past a wander in and around the Old Quarter. There is so much to see and soak up there that you will not be sorry when you find yourself lost... it's a perfect excuse to linger! If you get completely and hopelessly lost ( a skill of mine), then you can always just grab a cyclo. We did this whenever Bradley got too tired to keep moving.
Apart from the miriad of colourful little shops, you will find pretty temples (if anyone knows the name of the one pictured below I'd love to know), art galleries, old houses to visit, and the best part...people! I loved just watching the locals going about their day! My little boy loved the place! It was like one big obstacle course to him, jumping and climbing over street repairwork, dodging traffic, navigating past people working on the sidewalks, negotiating pathways between cooking pots and diners at street stalls, leaping muddy ditches...great fun for the young and energetic!
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- Arts and Culture
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