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Vietnam - The Old Quarter in Hanoi

By Judth Schwanke

I was lucky to have traveled to Hanoi's Old Quarter, until my family decided to travel to another place in southern Vietnam. This 1,000 year old quarter is right at Hanoi's center and very well-known for its history and charm. The area was formed in the 11th century, when King Ly Thai To decided Hanoi became Vietnam's capital in 1010 and at that time Hanoi was called Soaring Dragon. Although the Old Quarter is often called "the 36 old streets", there may have actually been more streets (see my list below). Most of the street names start with the word "Hang", which means "shop", and the next word after that would be a name of the specific product for sale in that street. For example, we have Silver Street (a street where silver products were sold), Cotton Street (cotton products) etc.

Nowadays, the land in Hanoi's Old Quarter is the most expensive area in Vietnam. Any front side shops on such major streets like Hang Dao can offer an unbelievable price for every meter square. A lot of old houses which were built in the late 19th century are still preserved until today. Many generations had lived at a very famous old house at number 87 in Ma May street, then the owner decided to donate the house, so that it could be a museum for the city. The house was renovated and opened in October 1999 thanks to the French assistance.
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Hanoi's Old Quarter by Larry

One of the gates into the old citadel, which still remains up to now, is the Black Gate which was built in 1744 and located at the end of Mat Street. Hanoi's Old Quarter is challenged by several rapid changes of history. There are many travel companies and new hotels as well as restaurants for travelers on some streets of the Old Quarter. Night markets are open at every weekend along Hang Dao to the popular Spring Filed market. It was fun walking down the narrow and winding streets in Hanoi's Old Quarter and thinking about how Hanoi was like in the old days.

Street vendor in the Old Quarter by yeowatzup

To end this amazing topic is the meaning of some streets in Hanoi's Old Quarter which was published in the Timeout Guide of Vietnam Investment that I've read and taken notes down in a cafe in the Old Quarter. However some streets have changed their names or products for sale lately:

Bat Dan (wooden bowls), Bat Su (ceramic bowls), Cha Ca (roasted fish), Chan Cam (string instruments), Cho Rice (rice market), Fishing street (fisherman), Shoes (sandals), Silver Street (silversmiths), Hang Ba(rafts), Hang Bo (baskets), Hang Bong (cottons), Sail street (sails), Hang But (brushes), Hang Ca (fish), Hang Can (scales), Glass Street (bottles), Hang Chi (threads), Mat street (mats), Jar street (jars), Leather street (leather), Hang Dao (silk dyes), etc.

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Author: Judth Schwanke

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