In the northern region of Vietnam lies Hanoi, its capital and the country’s center of commerce and power. It is that one historic city that will most likely ring a bell to foreign visitors whenever we speak of this East Asian Social Republic country situated just south of its communist and once long time ally, China. As is the case in many developing nations, it is no surprise for one to automatically project an image of Hanoi as a typical highly urbanized city with bustling highways, skyscrapers, fast cars and traces of modern innovation within its every corner just exactly how one would perceive other capital cities in the world. While this might be true in some parts of Hanoi, what made it so endearing however is not its usual city vibe imbued with tech savvy millennials but its charming history that resonates from its timelessness and rustic nature permeated by several French colonial work of architecture most of which are found within its most touristy district, The Old Quarter.
The Old Quarter is within Hoan Kiem district, one of the two most important districts of Hanoi. This once alligator infested swamp has now become one of the world’s tourists magnets 1000 years after its creation with millions of foreign visitors come to experience its untimely and captivating atmosphere which have ensued despite the ever changing world threatening its existence. The Old Quarter upholds a culture which has weathered the challenges of time and is still very evident along its 36 historical streets of French colonial infused architecture now bustling with motorcycles, merchant boutiques, various restaurants, business offices and places of accommodation from inexpensive backpacker inns to mid and top range hotels which have replaced the trade of gold, silver, herbs and smiths works practiced during the olden days. Street food corners are not to be missed as they continually represent the flavours of Hanoi and the very core of one of the world’s delectable cuisines. Pagodas and several places of worship are also scattered within the Old Quarter symbolizing the diverse religious foundation of the locales despite being known as a widely Atheist nation with Buddhism being predominant and Christianity, Hinduism and Islam sharing the remainder of the population.
The Old Quarter depicts quite a great story that has unfolded through ten centuries. A walk along its lively streets would take you into several different dimensions showcasing tales of the past which have shaped traditions and how they have come to endure until the modern times. Marvelling at the magnificence of this ancient place with your every turn is like watching a movie in slow motion that is set to send shivers down your spine and completely absorb you in it.
It is like flipping the pages of a novel with its every chapter so riveting, it is too impossible to get enough of. As each of the streets has a fascinating story to tell, it is not at all confusing to identify one after the other and though some may have evolved to adapt the demands of the modern world, traces of how they have been remain. There is handful of the most notable and important streets of the Old Quarter where the bustling trade had once taken place which is still very existent today. Knowing some can in an instant give us a glimpse to one quintessential part of this country’s awe-inspiring history.
- Ma May Street – A fusion of two old streets Hang May which sold rattan and Hang Ma which sold sacred joss.
- Hang Theic Street – The street for tinsmiths.
- Dong Xuan Street – The Market Street.
- Hang Thung Street – This is were barrels were manufactured
- Hang Dao Street – One of the oldest streets which name refers to apricot blossoms.
- Cao Go Street – Means the wooden bridge.
- Hang Bac Street – This street started as a silver ingot factory.
If you have noticed, most of the street names are preceded by the word Hang which in Vietnames means streets. The word that follows stands for the goods being sold in that particular street. Learn more about the streets of the Old Quarter in thingsasian.com
ANY PLANS OF GOING TO HANOI SOON? Here’s an informative travel guide
WAYS TO GET IN
- From the Philippines – Fly from NAIA airport to Noi Bai International airport. From the airport, ride bus no. 7 until the last drop off. From there ride bus no. 9 to Hoan Kiem district.
- From Ho Chi Minh and other provinces from the South – Hop on the train. It might take you a whole day to get there but it sure is worth it. You can also do sleeper bus. Train station from the South is situated inside the Old Quarter.
Interesting Places To See Within Or Near The Old Quarter
Awesome Things To Do In The Old Quarter
- Go on a walking tour in the Old Quarter
- Sample street foods
- Check cheap and interesting buys in Dong Xuan Market
- Ride the cyclo
- Watch the Water Puppet Show
- Explore the colourful nightly scene in Hoan Kiem Lake
- Sit in one of the coffee shops and watch locals while sipping Vietnamese coffee
Interesting Cities/Provinces To Visit Near Hanoi
- Halong Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that boast of an exquisite view of deep blue waters of the bay dotted by some majestic limestone karst. Going on a cruise for a day or two is the best way to explore this beautiful jewel lying just hours away from Hanoi.
- Ninh Binh. This province was once home to the Imperial capital of Vietnam, the city of Hoa Lu before it was moved to Hanoi following the demise of the Lé Dynasty. Not only that it was previously a place of power but it also is revered due to its natural beauty of endless rice paddies with several limestone mountains dotting it. It also is home to one of the monumental places of Buddhism, the Bich Dong Pagoda.
- Sapa. This province is home to the gorgeous rice terraces, native tribes probably one of the oldest in the country and the roof of Indochina, Mt. Fansipan.
- Cat Ba Island. A not so distant island from Hanoi that boasts of abundant natural resources.
- Mai Chau. Home to White Thai villages of stilt houses. A nice hiking spot covered with rice paddies hemmed by some hills.
- Huong Tich Mountain. Or The Mountain Of Fragrant Traces where lies several Bhuddist shrines.
Where To Stay
The Old Quarter is also known as the backpacker’s district where hundreds of backpacker and budget travellers gathered around. These 36 streets of French Colonial work of architecture are packed with luxurious hotels and budget inns. Among these is Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel situated in Ma May Street. For as cheap as $6, you get yourself a clean, comfortable bed with free breakfast in the morning and unlimited beers come 7 PM.
Still thinking for other great options, let Agoda help you narrow down your search.
Hanoi For VND 500.000 Sample Itinerary and Expenses Summary
|01:00||Arrived in Noi Bai Airport. Went to sleep at the lobby until 6 AM|
|06:00||Ate Vietnamese Pho for breakkfast.||30.000|
|07:00||Travelled to Old Quarter through buses no. 7 & 9||15.000|
|08:00||Arrived in the Old Quarter. Dropped by Thang Long Water Puppet Theater to buy a ticket for the 6PM show.||150.00|
|08:15||Walked to Ma May street to look for Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. Checked in for 1 night||150.00|
|09:00||Began with the walking tour in the Old Quarter stopping first at Bach Ma Temple then Cao Go Street following the other notable streets.|
|12:00||Ate lunch in one of the street food stalls in Dong Xuan Market.||25.000|
|13:00||Rode a cyclo to Hoan Kiem Lake.||25.000|
|14:00||Went to see the entirety of Hoan Kiem Lake, exploring Ngoc Son Temple and Huc Bridge then to Museum of history, Hanoi post office, Folk Art Theater, Women's Museum and Saint Joseph Cathedral||70.000|
|17:00||Went hunting for cheap tours for the next day. Scored a cheap US$21 tour for Hoa Lu and Tam Coc. |
***Cost for the tour will not be included for today's expenses.
|17:30||Walked to Thang Long Theater to watch the water puppet show.|
|20:00||Went back to the hostel to rest. Ate dinner an hour after. Joined in the fun at the hostel lobby overflowing with free beers.||35.000|
Total Expenses converted to peso: P1010
- Consider the weather when you travel to Hanoi. Prepare for cold weather during the months of November to March. Sunny weather is expected during the start of spring in April and althrough out summer.
- For my fellow Filipinos, flights to Hanoi normally depart Manila at 10 PM and arrives in Noi Bai International Airport passed midnight. It is most advisable to arrange a transfer to your hotel ahead of time or have some VND available to avoid getting ripped off ever you decide to ride a cab instead.
- Hanoi is known for notorious pickpockets and snatchers so better secure your valuables.
- Dress like a local. Avoid attracting trouble by not looking much of a tourist when walking around the city.
- Tours are normally offered by local tour agencies in dollar prices so better to have some dollars available when shopping around.
- Avoid local vendors who would normally offer you to carry their load of goods for a picture. They would sell you their goods for 3x higher the original price after. This was one of my not so good experiences while in Hanoi. I refused to buy her goods though and she ended very pissed, pushing me away from her sight. LOL. 😀
- Crossing the streets in Hanoi may seem difficult at first and takes a little getting used to. Learning to cross the street flooded with speeding cars, cyclos and motorcycles in both directions can get a bit exasperating but all it actually take is rhythm.
I guess this is pretty much it. If you guys need more info, just leave them in the comments box below.
Have you been to Hanoi before or is planning to go there soon? Share with me your thoughts.
Chat with you soon.
Ayt. Laters baby!. 🙂