Hanoi Old Quarter – The Eternal Symbol of Vietnam Capital
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Hanoi Old Quarter, listed as the top 5 best places to visit in Hanoi, is the heart of commerce in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. However, evidences dated back centuries ago still remain in these ancient streets. While perhaps a little bit out of place in the bustling and dynamic city, these thousand-year-old streets are so familiar with Hanoi people. Stay with us as we will introduce you to Hanoi Old Quarter where many the historical marks of Vietnam are situated.
Various Things to See and Do in Hanoi Old Quarter
Visitors can easily travel around the Old Quarter, especially since Hanoi Old Quarter has become walking street in weekends. You can also try the one-of-a-kind cyclo to have a first glimpse and an overview of the street. If you prefer a faster transportation, you may choose electric instead. However, I still recommend you to try cyclo as it is one of the Vietnamese traditional ways of traveling.
Two Tourists before an Exciting Trip on Cyclo
After knowing one or two things about the streets, it is time for you to go shopping (or window shopping) in the Old Quarter and Dong Xuan Market. On many streets, tourists will find fashionable clothing shops which offer both local and foreign clothes, shops that sell local brands and antiques and so on. Dong Xuan Market is another destination if you want to do more shopping. There will be wholesale and retail shops in the market with a wide range of products. On the first floor, you will find a wide variety of products ranging from clothes, glasses, purses to charger, mobile phones, and so forth, but mostly made in China. The second floor is packed with silk, textile, brocade…The last floor is for children and baby. Remember to make a bargain to have a little off-price.
Local Shops with Various Decorations
Nonetheless, exploring the architecture of Hanoi Old Quarter will easily be one of the most memorable moments of your travel to Vietnam. The French colonial had made a great impact on buildings in this section of the city. You can quickly find a series of small houses with tile roof block after block featuring the French style at the time the very moment you set foot in the Old Quarter. Each house is only a few meters wide, but 10 or so meters long and has 2 to 3 stories. However, the modern beauty is also mixed with an ancient and traditional architecture of Vietnam, which is represented by many temples and pagodas in the Old Quarter.
Typical French Architecture in Old Quarter
The first prime example of this, is Bach Ma Temple (literally White Horse Temple), one of the Four Sacred Temples built to protect the city. Legend told that when King Ly Thai To decided to change the capital from Hoa Lu to Thang Long (Hanoi), each time the people built the castle, each time it collapsed. Then, the king ordered his people to pray in Long Do temple, and a white horse appeared in his dream on that night. In the following day, the King drew the building plan according to the trace of the white horse and successfully built the castle. After a few centuries, the temple has been repaired and preserved until now.
The Front of Bach Ma Temple
Next, you can visit Ly Quoc Su Pagoda, a well-known Buddhism destination. This place was built to worship Ly Quoc Su, a great monk, after he cured King Ly Thanh Tong of a dangerous disease. Here, you can experience the remarkable architecture of Buddhism and traditional sculptures in Vietnam. Besides that, Ly Quoc Su Pagoda is a popular place for Vietnamese and foreigners vegetarian. These are just two examples in the Old Quarter and you should discover all hidden gems of Old Quarter by yourself.
Ly Quoc Su Pagoda
When you feel tired and want to regain some energy, the Old Quarter is a perfect place to enjoy the rich cuisine of Hanoi. On some streets such as Ta Hien, tourists can drink Bia Hoi while sitting in the corner and immerse in the busy lives of the people. Food vendors are everywhere on your way so you can try some if you interested. However, if there is no guide, choose one that you feel safe. In the north of Dong Xuan Market, food stalls working day and night will surely satisfy diners.
Tourist Resting on Ancient Streets
Finally, your trip in Old Quarter will not complete without watching the authentic Vietnamese water puppetry. This tradition began in the 11th century and after a thousand years, it is still one of the unique ways of entertainment. The water puppet show will show you the farming scenes of Vietnamese farmers, traditional festivals such as swimming contest or historical stories. With the art that has been perfected and passed down through generations, you will be astounded by magical performance in Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.
Daily Life of Ethnic Group
The Brief History of Hanoi Old Quarter
Since the Ly and Tran dynasty of Vietnam, while castles and palaces were built in the west of the capital, people had gradually created a trading market and villagers from the section started to gather. Trading was thriving and traditional handicraft villages began to be established during the Tran Dynasty (1225 – 1400).
In Le Dynasty (1428 – 1788), some rivers and lakes had formed in this area. Most important one is To Lich Lake which was connected with Hoan Kiem Lake and Red River Delta. As a result, the trading streets were prosperity when merchants from around the city came here.
After that, during Ly and Tran Dynasty, people from villages in Northern delta provinces settled in this section which made the old quarter became the most populated location in the capital. After Le Dynasty, Chinese people began to live in this area and influenced the culture and customs before resulted in a Chinese street.
Hang Gai Street in the Past
Even though some of the rivers and lakes had been filled, the trading still flourished as merchants from all over the world such as India, France starting to appear. French administration also cleared open markets and built a new one which is Dong Xuan Market today.
Dong Xuan Market during French Colonial Time
Nowadays, Hanoi Old Quarter still remains as the busiest commercial streets in the capital and one of the main attractions in Vietnam.
36 Ancient Streets – Now and Then
People in Vietnam often call Old Quarter as “36 ancient streets” which is not a correct number now and even in the past. Each street specialized in one product, such as Pho Hang Bun - Rice vermicelli, Hang Bong – Cotton, Hang Ca – Fish, Hang Da – Leather, Hang Dao – Dyer. However, today, some streets have mixed different products or switched to another kind of business.
Hang Ma Street Selling Traditional Toys
Nowadays, it is hard to meet foreign merchants on the street or the sight of trading on river. Instead, you can see most local shops selling traditional products. However, the lively and active commercial streets are one thing that does not change for centuries.
- Source: Vietnam Excursions
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