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Vietnam's Historical Old Quarter Pulsates
To experience the Old Quarter, Hanoi is to glimpse into the Asia of old. Hanoi has been long recognized as a city of charm with historical buildings. The Old Quarter is chaotic, noisy, vibrant and at times challenging for tourists.
The narrow streets in this area pulsate from early morning with markets, quaint shops, industry and trade. Motor cycles overloaded with people and goods to deliver weave expertly in and out of the narrow, congested streets.
In the early evening it becomes quieter but you can be sure that the cycle will begin again in the morning when traders arrive back in the old city with wares to sell – the fresh organic produce, colorful flowers, herbs and spices, pirated books and much more.
Over 1000 years ago guilds (trades) each took a street and named it after their trade. The streets are often named Hang, meaning merchandise, and then tagged with the name of the product which was sold. Hang Bo sells baskets Hang Giay shoes etc.
Hang Bac is the original home of silversmiths, in Hang Gai you can buy (or have made) very reasonably priced silk clothes, Hang Chieu displays colorful mats, Hang Huong incense, Hang Non for hats etc. Where else would you find a whole street of shops selling locks of every size and shape?
Although each of the original 36 streets were, originally, the exclusive domain of one guild today its less regimented and different merchandise is offered in many of the streets. A walking tour around these old streets, which now number fifty, is a fascinating insight into life in the Old Quarter.
Start the Walking Tour by Lake Hoan Kiem
Make your first stop the information centre which is on the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake to pick up a map (or print the one attached to this hub) and then just meander. If you take your time to stroll around the Old Quarter, this fascinating city will reveal itself to you.
Although you can see some of the sights of the Old Quarter streets in as little as one hour, but your experience will be richer if you allocate four or five hours.
There are many places to stop awhile with a refreshing cold Hanoi beer and a snack on Vietnamese food while you observe the hustle and bustle of life in the Old Quarter.
Very useful travel books
Try a Cyclo Tour
Alternatively you can relax in the back of a cycle while being peddled around the streets giving you a relaxing view of the sights.
Cyclo Tour Warning!
Many cyclo drivers will rip you off! It’s not uncommon for them to demand more money at the end of the ride. To avoid that, negotiate the price with the cyclo driver before you start. Ensure that the currency of the agreed fee and that its for a two person ride, not one person!
Writing down the agreed price (and currency) might save you some anguish at the end of the tour.
Travel Vietnam and in particular Hanoi is fascinating and best enjoyed at a relaxed pace. A walking tour around the Old Quarter will be a favorite travel memory with many photographic opportunities to share with your friends.
Hanoi's Old Quarter Map
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