For a while now, I've been seeing quite a number of people take short trips to Vietnam, be it Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi or even Sapa. My friends and even family members who have been, always tell me about what a nice place it is with good food and rich culture. This summer, I managed to convince my parents to head there for a short holiday and we explored the streets of Hanoi. From the best tourist things to do, local cuisine to eat and markets to visit, we covered it all!
The heart of the city with the most bustling streets and crazy traffic can be found in the Old quarters. According to some locals, the lack of traffic lights and narrow streets flooded with scooters is intentional to preserve the culture of olden Vietnam! When they had not yet developed and everyone knew how to ride motorcycles skillfully, without little mishaps despite the lack of traffic regulations.
In the old quarters, many street names sound similar to us who knows no Vietnamese, but the items they sell differ greatly. Almost every street has its specialty, from toys to kitchenware, accessories and fabric. After digging my memory (I really had to think a lot) and researching online as well, here are some streets I thought were pretty noteworthy.
Cau Go street- commercial street. Located near Hoan Kiem Lake, this street is in the commercial area of Old Quarters where bigger brand names such as Aldo, highland coffee and nicer bars and restaurants can be found. You'll be able to fine female accessories as well!
Hang Buom Street- everything coffee! If you've read my Hanoi food guide, you'll know Vietnamese coffee holds a very special place in my heart. So you can probably guess how excited I was to chance across coffee street. Here, you'll be able to find all sorts of coffee beans, hand drip tools and accessories at very affordable prices!
Hang Gai Street- tailoring and silk. Vietnam is home to many tailors and fabric markets due to the level of skill and affordable labour costs. Along Hang Gai street in Old Quarters, you can find a variety of silk shops and tailors. If you intend to tailor make your clothing however, do check out a few stores and get quotations before deciding!
Tip: Some stores have their own fabrics that you can choose from but i recommend purchasing your own from nearby fabric markets such as Dong Xuan Market and Cho Hom Market.
Hang Bo Street- Buttons and sewing street. Probably my favourite street yet, Hong Bo is lined with shops selling everything sewing related. From buttons to thread, ribbons, elastics and velcro, you can pretty much satisfy all your sewing needs at a fraction of a price you'd get in Singapore!
Hang Dau Street- weekend night market. On weekdays and daytime, Hang Dau street is known as a shoe street where all sorts of footwear (including fakes) can be found. During the weekend night however, it transforms into a night market that is crowded beyond belief. If you're not a fan of large crowds and haggling, this is definitely not the place for you. But, I do believe it's worth checking out if you've never been!
Hoam Kiem Lake- located at the commercial area of Old quarters, Hoan Kiem lake acts as a link between the Old Quarters and French Quarters of Hanoi. A plethora of activities also revolve around the lake with some elderly working out, street vendors selling handicraft, teens playing Chapte, people chilling at cafes and even the water puppet theatre is just round the corner. I'd recommend taking a stroll around the lake at least once and people watch along the way!
Dong Xuan Market- located in the Old Quarters, Dong Xuan market is home to hundreds of stores selling bags, fabrics, hat and souvenirs. It's the biggest market in the area and you can get your fabric here if you intend to tailor your clothing, otherwise you can also check out Cho Hom market (see below!).
Cho Hom Market- Cho Hom market is actually found outside of the Old Quarters, in the French Quarter instead. This market is significantly bigger than Dong Xuan market with a wider range of fabrics, stores that sell shoes, bags and many fruit vendors as well. I found fabrics which I much preferred here and I didn't even manage to get through half the shops before my parents started feeling claustrophobic and we had to leave. We also bought the best lychees and cherries I've ever had! The fruits were honestly so fresh looking, I'm salivating just thinking about it now.
A special mention should also be given to this not-so-little chocolate shop we chanced across while exploring the French Quarters. This store makes their chocolates in store, using cocoa beans from Vietnam. They also have an adjunct cafe with drinks and desserts but we didn't have the time or stomach capacity to try it so we bought some chocolate bars to takeaway. We tried a series of bars, each bar with beans unique to a certain place in Vietnam, and tried 2 other interesting flavours- chocolate with fresh chilli and chocolate with fresh ginger. Though I am no chocolate connoisseur, I could tell these chocolates were of high quality indeed and definitely yums! It's great to bring back as a special treat for family and friends as well.
And that concludes my Hanoi guide to the Old quarters and French Quarters! My family actually spent a full week in Vietnam, but 2 of those days were spent a short distance out of Hanoi which you can read about here. I hope you enjoyed reading this and do let me know about any good places I missed or drop me a question and I'll do my best to answer it. Have a great week ahead!
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