Hanoi, February 2014 – The Old Quarter can be described as the “heart” of Hanoi since it is the home to numerous artisans, restaurants and famous sights – the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda and Flag Tower of Hanoi.
Its origin stems from the 11th century, when King Ly Thai decided to build his palace and selected Thang Long (ancient name for Hanoi) as the capital. Hanoi’s Old Quarter (also known as “Hanoi – 36 Old Streets”) is made up of 36 streets, originally a group of workshop villages surrounding the palace. In ancient times, each street was named for the trade that the merchants and households specialized in; for instance, there is a silk street, silver street etc. Today, the area is over 1,000 years old.
Mr. King and I enjoyed exploring the narrow streets, despite the challenge in crossing them amidst floods of speeding motorcycles. Riding the cyclos is one activity (a pleasant way to take in the surroundings) that I highly recommend, and it only costs about US$1-2 per person.
The most famous street is Hang Gai Street, which is the main artery of the Old Quarter. Mr. King and I found numerous shops specializing in antiques, hand-embroidery, lacquerware, ceramics, silk, handicrafts and Vietnamese artworks. Time to shop!
Tan My, 61-66 Hang Gai Street
Tan My, 16 Hang Trong Street
These two shops have the same name, but are operated by two siblings. So we found different designs and products at both locations.
Hanoi Moment, 101 Hang Gai Street
Countless lacquerware shops exist along Hang Gai, and they also sell good quality products.
KhaiSilk, 113 Hang Gai Street – KhaiSilk is famous for its high quality silk clothing for men and women.
Thuy Nga, 3rd Floor, Number 2, 93 Allery, Ly Nam De St – This shop specializes in the traditional Vietnamese dress called “Ao Dai” and is located on the fringe of the Old Quarter, about 10 minutes walk from Hang Gai.
Vietnamese Art / Paintings
Apricot Gallery, 40B Hang Bong Street
Green Palm Gallery, 39 Hang Gai Street
Thang Long Gallery, 41 Hang Gai Street
The above art galleries sell original artworks by contemporary Vietnamese artists. Scattered around the Old Quarter are numerous “art galleries” that sell “replicas” of paintings by renowned artists (Botero, Van Gogh, Magritte… as well as famous Vietnamese artists). Custom portraits can be ordered at these galleries. The painters are usually self-taught. A “replica” costs about US$100 –not bad for a Van Gogh!
A word of advice from Mr. King – Negotiating skillfully with the smaller shops may result in unexpected bargains! (The shops I listed above gave only 5-10% discounts).
After all that shopping, we stopped by The Little Hanoi, the corner café at 23 Hang Gai. They serve great coffees and snacks.
Since the 2019 Asian Games will be held in Hanoi, I seriously urge anyone who hasn’t been to Hanoi, to visit before the quaint ancient streets dissolve into distant memory.
All the photos were taken by Mrs. King.